Simmons homers twice, Braves beat Reds 7-4
CINCINNATI (AP) — Andrelton Simmons is starting to get noticed for more than those amazing defensive plays.
The young shortstop homered twice and drove in a career-high four runs on Monday night, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 7-4 victory that ended the Cincinnati Reds’ winning streak at three games.
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The Braves won at a place where they’ve had little success lately. They were 0-4 at Great American Ball Park last year and 14-25 overall since it opened for the 2003 season.
Simmons led the way on offense, something he hasn’t had to do very often. The first multihomer game of his career allowed the Braves to get ahead and pull away.
“When all is said and done after this year, we’re going to be talking about him as one of the best shortstops in baseball,” catcher Brian McCann said.
Simmons worked on his swing when Saturday’s game against the Mets was rained out, trying to keep his bat back a little longer so he could generate more power. The work is quickly paying off.
“That rainout really helped,” said Simmons, who has four homers. “I feel like I’m where I want to be right now.”
He showed a little more defense, too. His best play came in the seventh, when he caught a hurried throw between his legs and tagged out out Shin-Soo Choo as he tried to steal second base.
“He’s pretty acrobatic,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I remember someone asking me in spring training: What’s the best defensive play he’s made? It’s the next one. It’s one after another with him.”
Paul Maholm (4-3) held down an offense that’s been all-or-nothing. The left-hander allowed four hits and two runs in 5 2-3 innings. Cincinnati stranded five runners in scoring position overall.
Craig Kimbrel gave up a pair of singles in the ninth before fanning Joey Votto, picking up his 10th save in 12 opportunities.
Atlanta scored in four of five innings against Bronson Arroyo (2-4), who gave up eight hits, walked two and allowed four runs in his shortest outing of the season.
“They have a really powerful lineup with a lot of threats, which makes you be a little more nitpicky,” Arroyo said. “You end up throwing a lot more pitches than you normally would. You’d think the only guy you don’t worry about hitting home runs is the eighth guy (Simmons), and he ends up taking me deep.”
Simmons had a solo shot and an RBI single off Arroyo. He added a two-run homer in the eighth off Logan Ondrusek, matching his career high for hits.
Freddie Freeman also singled and doubled and drove in a run off Arroyo, who needed 98 pitches to get through five innings. Jordan Schafer added his first career pinch-hit homer as the Braves pulled away.
The injury-sapped Braves got a little closer to full strength when McCann was activated off the disabled list, completing a comeback from surgery on his throwing shoulder last October. The six-time All-Star catcher started and went 0 for 4 with a walk.
“Felt great,” McCann said. “The first day couldn’t have gone any better.”
Right fielder Jason Heyward also increased his workout activities while recovering from surgery to remove his appendix on April 22. The Braves will decide by the end of the week whether he’s ready to start a rehab assignment in the minors.
The Braves made it tough on Arroyo from the outset. Freeman singled home a run in the first inning, but Atlanta left the bases loaded when Dan Uggla struck out.
Simmons led off the second inning with a homer down the third-base line. Uggla opened the fourth with his second triple of the season — a ball into the gap in right-center field — and scored on Simmons’ single off the glove of Zack Cozart in the hole at shortstop for a 3-0 lead.
Evan Gattis doubled home a run in the fifth off Arroyo. The Braves pulled away with three runs in the eighth off Ondrusek.
Votto doubled home a run in the eighth inning, extending his hitting streak to nine games.
NOTES: The Braves optioned utility player Tyler Pastornicky to Triple-A Gwinnett to open a roster spot for McCann. … Simmons has six multihit games in his last 14. … Choo was hit by a pitch for the 11th time. … Alfredo Simon fanned the six Braves he faced, the first Reds pitcher to strike out six in a row since Aaron Harang in 2008. … Reds RHP Johnny Cueto threw 25 pitches in the bullpen without problem. Cueto has been on the DL since April 15 with a strained muscle in his back. … NFL receiver and Hall of Fame inductee Cris Carter threw a ceremonial pitch to former NBA player and coach Butch Carter. Judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison took out the lineup card.