Reds hope to keep Braves from heating up

MLB Baseball

Two teams battling injuries to their pitching staffs will meet in the second game of a four-game weekend series Friday night in Cincinnati.

The Cincinnati Reds will look for their third straight win while the Atlanta Braves will look to avoid their third straight loss on their eight-game road trip.

The Braves hope to have star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. back after he missed Wednesday and Thursday due to back spasms.

“He’s still sore,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said before Thursday’s game. “They worked on him all day [Thursday]. They just hope with another day [of rest], he’ll be ready to go [Friday]. He’s literally day-to-day.”

Acuna leads the Braves in batting (.285) and homers (20) while posting a .996 OPS.

The Braves will send left-hander Drew Smyly (4-3, 5.11 ERA) to the mound against the Reds. Smyly is one of only three healthy regular starters for Atlanta.

Smyly is making his 13th start of the season for Atlanta and is coming off his best outing of the season, allowing just one hit over 5 2/3 shutout innings last Sunday against St. Louis. He earned the win as the Braves beat the Cardinals 1-0 in seven innings in the nightcap of the doubleheader. The win marked just the fourth quality start of the year for Smyly.

Cincinnati’s 5-3 win Thursday marked the first meeting between the two clubs since Atlanta held the Reds scoreless over 22 innings of playoff action last October in a two-game sweep. The loss was just the sixth in 19 games for the Braves against the NL Central this season.

Atlanta is 51-33 (.607) against the Central since the start of 2018, the best record by an NL team in that span.

Snitker said left-hander Max Fried (finger blister) should be ready to come off the injured list next week when he is eligible. Snitker also announced plans Thursday to give veteran Charlie Morton extra rest heading into his next start, pushing him from Sunday in Cincinnati to Tuesday against the Mets in Atlanta, with the hope of starting Fried on Wednesday.

“He could have pitched if this was a playoff situation,” Snitker said of Fried. “But we just wanted to get ahead of it and not create more trouble for ourselves.”

The Reds counter Friday with their second straight rookie in right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez (3-1, 3.86), making his sixth big league start. In last Saturday’s 7-5 loss at San Diego, Gutierrez left with the score tied 5-5 and was denied in his bid to become only the ninth pitcher in Reds history to earn at least four wins in his first five major league starts.

The Reds placed reliever Lucas Sims on the 10-day injured list on Thursday (retroactive to Wednesday) with a right elbow sprain, just two days after they activated top reliever Tejay Antone off the injured list.

“I feel for Lucas,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s doing so well. He’s got a great career ahead of him. He’s shown that over the last year, year and a half. He’s got a long way to go. I know he loves to compete, he loves to win. He loves being a part of this team, so it’ll be a tough few weeks for him, I’m sure.”

The win Thursday improved Cincinnati to 15-8 in its 23 games since May 30.

–Field Level Media

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