Baseball / Sports

Reds thwart Braves' late rally, earn series split

CINCINNATI -- Aaron Harang's return to Cincinnati didn't go so well, and the Braves' recent five-game winning streak and offensive resurgence suddenly feel like fading memories.

Failing to cover first base on an infield single, Harang contributed to his own demise in a three-run fourth inning that propelled the Reds to a 5-3 win Sunday and a split of their four-game series with the Braves at Great America Ballpark.

The Braves staged a ninth-inning rally that yielded two runs before Justin Upton grounded into a bases-loaded force at second to end the game.

After winning five in a row and seven out of eight, the Braves dropped consecutive weekend games against a Reds team that had a seven-game losing streak before shutting out the Braves 1-0 on three hits Saturday.

Atlanta hitters didn't do much better for most of Sunday, when six of their nine hits came in the final three innings after the Reds built a 4-0 lead. They trailed 5-1 before Evan Gattis led off the ninth with his 20th home run, and Jason Heyward hit a two-out RBI single.

Jonathan Broxton walked Phil Gosselin and Freddie Freeman consecutively to load the bases before Upton's grounder.

Gattis became the second catcher in franchise history to hit at least 20 homers in each of his first two seasons, joining Earl Williams (1971-1972).

The Braves are 4-3 on a 10-game trip that concludes with a three-game series against the Mets beginning Tuesday. They have dropped three of their past five and scored a total of four runs in the three losses.

They trailed 4-0 before scoring a run in the seventh inning Sunday on consecutive one-out doubles by Gattis and Tommy La Stella. B.J. Upton lined out to center field and Ryan Doumit hit a routine groundout to strand a runner at third.

After Todd Frazier's seventh-inning homer off reliever David Hale pushed the lead back to 5-1, the Braves had another scoring opportunity in the eighth when they started the inning with a Heyward walk and Gosselin single. But Freeman grounded into a force at second and both Justin Upton and Chris Johnson struck out with runners on the corners.

Harang (10-8) allowed eight hits and four runs in 5 1/3 innings, with two walks and five strikeouts. It was just the fourth time this season he allowed more than three earned runs in five or fewer innings, but two of those have been in his past three starts.

The Braves fell to 5-8 in games before off days, which includes five losses by three or more runs as well as a 10-inning defeat. They'll have a day off Monday in New York to stew over what went wrong in Cincinnati and how their division-title hopes are fading with just 31 games to play.

Before Sunday, they were seven games behind National League East leader Washington, and one game behind San Francisco for the second NL wild-card spot.

The Braves had high hopes for a strong finish to the series with Harang on the mound in the ballpark where he pitched for 7 1/2 seasons with the Reds and made five consecutive opening-day starts through 2010. Harang had been 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA in his past 11 starts before Sunday, with three earned runs or fewer in nine of those games.

But after allowing just one walk and an infield single through three innings, Harang gave up consecutive singles to start the fourth. One out later, he didn't cover first base on Jay Bruce's infield single that Freeman fielded behind the base on the line.

With the bases now loaded, the Reds got a sacrifice fly from Ryan Ludwick and RBI singles from Brayan Pena and Zack Cozart to build a 3-0 lead. They tacked on another run in the sixth when they chased Harang from the game with a pair of singles and a walk that loaded the bases again. Cozart's run-scoring groundout made it 4-0.

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