Three Cuts: Longballs doom Braves as Reds tee off again

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Eric Stults gave up six earned runs and 11 hits to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday. 

Dale Zanine/Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA — The Braves pitching staff gave up crooked numbers in three innings Saturday night against the Reds and were done in by five extra-base hits (two triples and three home runs) on the way to an 8-4 loss. Atlanta has now dropped two of the first three games of this four-game home series to Cincinnati.

Atlanta put four runs on the board from seven hits (two from Andrelton Simmons and Cameron Maybin each to lead the way) but could never catch the visiting Reds, who scored two runs in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth before the Braves scored.

Cincinnati starter Jason Marquis gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings and even battled through a Kelly Johnson line drive to his forearm to get his third win if the season. He held the Braves hitless through four innings.

Here are three observations from Saturday’s loss:

If you didn’t watch Saturday’s game, you may cringe when you see Eric Stults’ final line.

Stults gave up six runs and 11 hits and only struck out two batters. He also walked one and allowed two home runs. In addition to the bombs Stults allowed, Jay Bruce launched two triples on Atlanta’s starter. Extra-base hits were somewhat the norm.

The last time Stults gave up 11 hits was last season on May 5 against Kansas City. But Stults’ Padres still on that game as he didn’t allow a homer and only gave up three runs. Saturday’s start was different because of all the powerful hitting form Cincinnati. It was also different because the boxscore doesn’t show some good things about his outing.

"He gave us some length," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said on Stults’ start. "They hit some balls; not real hard, but then they hit some balls hard. Two triples and two home runs. But he gave us seven innings. He kept us in the ball game, kept us hanging around and we didn’t get anything going after Marquis, really."

Stults threw 102 pitches and did enjoy the longest outing of his season (his previous best was his last, a 6 1/3 inning start versus the Nationals). But he had trouble with his curve ball. He said despite some struggles, he took some valuable momentum forward.

"Early on it was just one of those nights where I executed some pitches but I just didn’t get the results," said Stults. "As the game went on [I] elevated a few balls and they drove some balls. Overall I felt good physically, and for the most part I feel like I executed a lot of pitches.

"It’s just one of those nights where you give them credit. They fought off some good pitches and got enough of some good pitches to get some balls through the infield."

Don’t look now, but Cameron Maybin may be putting things together at the plate.

Prior to Saturday’s action Maybin had just 40 at-bats this season. He’d only appeared in 16 games and started just 10. For some, that could have turned mentally sour. But Maybin doesn’t look for excuses.

"That’s my motto: Don’t cry, don’t complain, just work and be ready," said Maybin. "Unfortunately we didn’t get a ‘W’ but it’s nice to be in the mix."

Maybin was in the mix because Gonzalez wanted to get the outfielder some work. And it paid off.

Not only did Maybin launch a two-run home run in the fifth, but he had an RBI single in the ninth. He was 2 for 3 on the night with three RBI. His home run — No. 4 on the season — means he’s blasted four dingers this season in just 51 plate appearances.

"Good for him," said Gonzalez. "He’s a guy that can swing the bat and stay hot. He’s been working his tail off with [assistant hitting coach] Jose [Castro] and with [hitting coach] Kevin [Seitzer] to get his swing right. And you know what? He never puts his head down and he’s always ready to play and he’s reaping some of the rewards now."

In his last two starts Maybin is 4 for 6 with three RBI, one strikeout and three walks.

On Thursday the Reds knocked four balls into the Turner Field outfield seats. They were all solo shots, but shots nonetheless. Two days later Cincinnati banged out three more homers.

The Reds have hit seven home runs in three games and have upped their long-ball output on the season to 34. They trail just the Dodgers in major-league home runs this season. Los Angeles has 36.

Cincinnati got home runs Saturday from Marlon Byrd (his third of the season), Todd Frazier (his eighth of the season, second of the series) and Zack Cozart (No. 5 in 2015). On Thursday, Billy Hamilton got his second of the season, as did Tucker Barnhart. Frazier, as mentioned earlier, got one, and pitcher Mike Leake got into the act.

The Braves have now given up 19 home runs at home, second only to the Milwaukee Brewers, who have allowed 21 homers in their own stadium.

Cincinnati has some huge sticks in its lineup; seven home runs in three games is big, but not outlandish. But when the pitcher hits one, and the Braves notice balls leaving Turner Field at an alarming rate (Atlanta finished 16th in the league last season in home runs allowed at home with 67), there could be a problem.

The Braves have given up 19 home runs at Turner Field in 12 games. They’re on pace to allow 128 if this rate keeps constant.