CINCINNATI – If it wasn’t too surprising when the Reds hit four home runs off the Braves’ Mike Minor on Monday, it was another matter when they hit three Tuesday night off Brandon Beachy.
After allowing only one home run in his previous 72 innings, Beachy gave up a career-high three homers in the first four innings of a 4-3 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Brandon Phillips took him deep twice.
Braves leadoff man Michael Bourn had the first two-homer game of his career, but couldn’t fully enjoy it because his solo shots in the first and eighth innings weren’t enough to prevent Atlanta’s third loss in four games and fifth in nine games.
“It’s my first time ever doing it,” said Bourn, who also had a double. “But all in all, you want the victory.”
The Braves slipped to second place in the NL East, a half-game behind Washington.
Beachy (5-2) gave up four runs and six hits in seven innings in his first loss since his season debut. He had not allowed more than two runs in seven starts.
He was asked if the culprit was an undersized ballpark, mistake pitches, or a combination of the two.
“Probably a combination,” he said. “But I missed some spots. I’m not going to let the ballpark be an excuse for any of those three home runs. None of those pitches were where they were supposed to be.”
The Braves are 2-3 on their seven-game road trip and need to win the last two in Cincinnati to salvage a split of the four-game series. All of Cincinnati’s eight runs in the series have come on homers, seven of them solo shots.
“Two nights in a row,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “They’re swinging it, and getting them over the fence. I thought Beachy was terrific. [Mike] Minor did a nice job yesterday getting us deep in the ballgame, and Beachy did a great job keeping it right there. We just didn’t have any offense to score.”
Long balls have been the Braves’ pitchers’ undoing for two nights, while their own offense has struggled in a ballpark that’s conducive to scoring.
“Of all the places,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s baseball. You can’t figure it out. You try to figure it out, you’ll go crazy.”
The Braves managed just two hits in Monday’s 4-1 loss, when Minor gave up a career-high four homers. They’ve scored eight runs in their past four games and 31 runs in their 4-5 stretch.
Beachy came in as as the major league leader in ERA (1.33) and opponents’ slugging percentage (.224). He had allowed one home run this season and was 5-0 in his past seven starts.
The ascendant second-year pitcher has given up more than one homer in three of 37 career starts, including both of his starts at the Reds’ hitter-friendly ballpark on the banks of the Ohio River.
Beachy gave up two homers against the Reds last season on July 24, after two at Colorado on July 19. That was the extent of his multi-homer misadventures before Tuesday.
Phillips hit a two-run homer in the first inning and solo shot in the fourth, his first homers since April 24. Afterward the Reds second baseman credited Braves veteran Chipper Jones for a tip he gave him before the game. He said Jones told him, “You have great hands, you need to use them.”
“Me and Chipper are cool,” Phillips said.
While the Reds have teed off for two nights, the Braves’ offense has continued in a funk. They got two hits in eight innings against previously winless Mike Leake on Monday, and Mat Latos (3-2) limited them to five hits and one walk with eight strikeouts in seven innings Tuesday.
Bourn homered to start the game, then Latos retired the next eight batters before Bourn doubled in the third inning. Bourn homered in the eighth off right-hander Logan Ondrusek, giving him twice as many homers in one night as he’d had all season.
“He was our offense, really,” Gonzalez said. “Him and Heyward.”
Jason Heyward had an RBI double in the fourth inning to score Dan Uggla from first base with none out. Freddie Freeman led off the inning with a single but was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.
Before getting three extra-base hits Tuesday, Bourn had been 1-for-17 in his past four games.
The odd thing about the Reds’ two-night power-hitting display has been the participants, which haven’t included Joey Votto or Jay Bruce.
Votto and Bruce had 12 homers between them in 17 home games before this series, while all other Reds had a combined six homers this season at Great American Ball Park before the Braves came to town.
Those other players have seven homers in the past two nights, while Votto and Bruce have none.
Before giving up three homers, Beachy had allowed only one in 72 innings over 11-plus starts dating to Sept. 5. But on Tuesday, it was the opposing pitcher who stole the show.
“I guess you’ve got to tip your hat to their starting pitching,” Gonzalez said. “You hand the ball off to their bullpen and you’re going to be in trouble, because it’s a short game.”
David Ross lined out to the shortstop with a runner on to end the game, after closer Aroldis Chapman struck out Uggla and Heyward to start the inning, Heyward swinging at a 100-mph fastball for strike 3.
“We’ve run into some good pitching staffs,” said Heyward, who struck out three times, twice against Latos. “We lost 4-3, a one-run game. We hung in there. They swung the bats well and were able to maintain that lead. But again, we were close. We had another opportunity at the end of the game to tie it up…. That’s all you can ask for.”
Said Bourn: “It was a hard-fought game both ways. They hit a couple of home runs as well, and they were able to hold the lead the rest of the game. Chapman came in and closed it down. We fought them at the end pretty good, but he’s not easy to get to, throwing that hard.”