Aug 24, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier (21) reacts after hitting a home run during the seventh inning against the Atlanta Braves at Great American Ball Park. The Reds defeated the Braves 5-3.
CINCINNATI –The Reds haven’t been supplying much in the way of offensive explosions lately. The fireworks crew at Great American Ball Park took note of Sunday’s doings.
After Todd Frazier’s 22nd home run of the season finished its 419-foot travel off the facade of the upper deck stands in left field in the seventh inning of a 5-3 win against Atlanta, the crew fired off its customary celebratory round of rockets’ red glare. Another quick burst came a few seconds later. And then another.
Just as the extra pyrotechnics were a surprise, so too was the Reds’ 10-hit display after three days of futility against the Braves’ pitching that had produced all of two runs on 12 hits. It was needed, too, as Atlanta scored twice in the ninth and had the bases loaded before Jonathan Broxton got the final out of the game with a ground ball by Justin Upton that second baseman Brandon Phillips handled with ease and tossed to shortstop Zack Cozart covering second base for a force of Freddie Freeman.
After losing a season-high seven games, the Reds (63-68) now have back-to-back wins for the first time since beating Cleveland three straight from Aug. 5-7.
There is still plenty of work to do in an attempt to climb out of the massive hole they’ve dug for themselves the past month but Sunday’s offense was uplifting.
"What has to be the focus is the team has to play better," said manager Bryan Price. "There is our end goal but if we don’t see what is right in front of us, the fact that we’re not playing great baseball the last 35 games, all of the other stuff has no relevance. We’re not going to luck our way into anything."
The Reds took the lead with three runs on five hits in the fourth inning. It was the equivalent of a full-game workload the way things have been recently. Two-out RBI singles by Brayan Pena — which snapped a 0-for-16 streak — and Cozart gave starter Alfredo Simon some elusive tack-on runs after a bases loaded sacrifice fly by Ryan Ludwick drove in the first run of the inning.
Atlanta starter Aaron Harang opened the door to the inning when he failed to cover first base on ground ball to Freeman deep behind the bag that should have been the second out of the inning.
For once, the Reds actually took advantage of the situation.
"We got some two out hits and those were big hits," said Cozart, who was 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBI. "In the past you’ve heard about the Cardinals and how well they hit with two outs. Those are backbreakers because the pitcher can think he’s out of it and all of a sudden you get a couple of knocks and score a couple of runs. It’s different."
Cozart drove in his second run of the game and gave the Red a 4-0 lead by beating out a potential inning-ending double play grounder to third base in the sixth inning. Frazier’s home run in the seventh inning answered a run the Braves got in the top of the inning.
Price called Cozart’s day at the plate "heartwarming" because of the many struggles the shortstop has had offensively this season. Cozart hasn’t let it affect his defense, which was also on display Sunday with four putouts and four assists. He just missed hitting his fourth home run of the season in the eighth inning but instead settled for his fourth triple when he hit a ball off the top of the wall in right-center field.
"I saw (B.J.) Upton kind of jogging and giving up on it," said Cozart, who had to speed things up to make it third sliding after the ball bounced back into the field. "I don’t have a lot of pop that way. When it hit the top of the wall I said ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ I slide into third and I was like ‘Oh my god.’ I needed that one. (Atlanta right fielder Jason) Heyward ran by me and he was like ‘One more donut and you would’ve had a homer right there.’ That’s all I’ve got right there. I need the wind blowing out a little more."
For now, the Reds will take it any way they can get it.