The Reds beat the Braves on Thursday, besting the visitors by a 5-3 score on the backs of Tony Santillan and Nick Castellanos. Santillan was solid on the mound for Cincinnati and Atlanta simply could not keep Castellanos quiet with the bat.
The Braves jumped out to an early lead as Freddie Freeman, the second batter of the game, blasted a 442-foot home run to right-center field. This was the 17th homer of the season for Freeman, who continues his ascent toward career norms after tough luck hampered his early-season numbers.
The Reds answered quickly as Nick Castellanos plated a run with a sac fly in the bottom of the first, tying the game 1-1. Jesse Chavez held Cincinnati scoreless in the second inning, but the third inning was a different story. Reds starting pitcher Tony Santillan doubled to left field to lead off the frame, giving the towering right-hander his first career hit. After a pitching change that saw Tyler Matzek enter for Atlanta, Joey Votto singled to drive home Santillan and give the Reds a 2-1 lead.
The score held for the middle innings as Matzek, Edgar Santana, and Sean Newcomb each worked scoreless outings. These were impressive feats for each in a tough ballpark against a tough lineup, and were vital during a bullpen game. The luck ran out for Atlanta in the seventh, however, as Luke Jackson allowed a two-run blast to Castellanos to push the Cincinnati advantage to 4-1.
The Reds turned to right-hander Tejay Antone in the eighth inning, which was fortuitous for the Braves. Ozzie Albies lined a one-out homer into the right field bleachers, pulling Atlanta a run closer and setting the table for a Braves comeback. Austin Riley followed with a single, then Abraham Almonte reached on an error by first baseman Joey Votto to put runners at the corners. Ehire Adrianza was next, and came through with an RBI single. Kevan Smith then worked a walk to load the bases for Ender Inciarte. The bleeding would stop here for the Reds, as Inciarte struck out and pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval weakly lined out to second base.
Cincinnati answered in the eighth yet again, as Castellanos lined a two-out single off the right field wall to score Jonathan India and push the advantage to 5-3. A Freeman one-out single gave the Braves a chance to tie, but Albies flied out to left and Riley struck out to end the proceedings. Old friend Brad Brach picked up the save for the Reds, slamming the door and giving Cincinnati a win in the series opener.
The Braves were flush with opportunities in this one, leaving ten runners on base while going just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Every team will find difficulty winning with that performance, but this has seemingly been the norm for Atlanta for years. The continued inability to find clutch hits cost them in this one, which is especially frustrating after the bullpen game actually worked relatively well. The Braves will get another shot at the Reds tomorrow night, with Drew Smyly on the mound for Atlanta.