Braves use HRs to topple Reds

Published 12:27 am Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cincinnati Reds' starting pitcher Mike Leake gave up three home runs Saturday against the Atlanta Braves in a 4-1 loss. The three home runs match a career-high for any Leake appearance. (MCT Direct Photo)

Cincinnati Reds’ starting pitcher Mike Leake gave up three home runs Saturday against the Atlanta Braves in a 4-1 loss. The three home runs match a career-high for any Leake appearance. (MCT Direct Photo)

ATLANTA (AP) — Mike Leake settled down after throwing three mistake pitches in the first three innings.

That was too late to compete with Atlanta rookie David Hale.

Leake gave up three home runs early in the game and the Cincinnati Reds were shut down by Hale and the Braves 4-1 on Saturday night.

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Leake (2-2) retired 11 of the last 14 batters he faced after giving up homers to Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis.

“Just pitches left where they could hit it,” Leake said. “Mistakes.”

The three homers matched the most allowed in a game by Leake, who gave up four runs and eight hits in seven innings.

Leake said Freeman’s two-run homer in the first was a combination of a mistake and good hitting.

“But the other two were just center-cut mistakes,” he said.

Hale (1-0) allowed only two hits over eight innings. He gave up a walk and two hits, including Ryan Ludwick’s run-scoring double, in the first inning. He didn’t allow another hit as he faced the minimum 21 batters over the next seven innings.

“So he threw a no-hitter after that,” Ludwick said.

“He did an outstanding job. What did we have? Two hits? … Not a whole lot of offense.”

Reds manager Bryan Price said Hale “just never really gave us a chance. He pitched really well. It was very impressive.”

Cincinnati’s only other baserunner against Hale came on Jay Bruce’s leadoff walk in the fourth, and the Braves ended that inning with a double play.

Craig Kimbrel closed the combined two-hitter — a season low for the Reds — for his eighth save.

Kimbrel gave up a one-out walk to Joey Votto in the ninth before striking out Brandon Phillips and Bruce to end the game.

“We had five baserunners,” Price said. “We had two hits and three walks. That’s not going to be enough.”

Upton and Gattis hit back-to-back homers in the third. Upton, who also hit a homer in the Braves’ 5-4 win on Friday night, leads the team with seven.

Ludwick reached over the left-field wall to take another homer away from Freeman in the third inning.

Despite the strong start, Hale could lose his spot in the rotation when Mike Minor is expected to come off the disabled list next week.

Minor was projected as one of the team’s top starters even before Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy had season-ending elbow injuries in spring training.

Minor had urinary tract surgery on Dec. 31, which pushed back his spring schedule. He then developed shoulder soreness and was shut down in spring training.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he’ll wait until after Minor’s next side session to announce any rotation changes for next week. After Hale’s dominant performance, Gonzalez wouldn’t be drawn into a discussion on how he’ll find a spot for Minor.

“Let me enjoy the day, and we’ll talk about it in the morning,” Gonzalez said.

The Reds held out third baseman Todd Frazier after he left Friday night’s game with tightness in his left leg. Manager Bryan Price said Frazier probably could have played and likely will miss only one game. Neftali Soto was 0-for-3 in his first career start as Frazier’s replacement.

NOTES: The Cincinnati Reds placed C Devin Mesoraco on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. The team recalled C Tucker Barnhart from Triple-A Louisville. … Leake also allowed three homers against Pittsburgh on July 19, 2013. … Reds LHP Aroldis Chapman, on the DL with facial fractures after he was hit by a line drive on March 19, threw 43 pitches in batting practice. He is scheduled to throw another simulated game on Tuesday in Cincinnati before beginning a rehab stint in the minors. … B.J. Upton’s infield single in the first was his 1,000th career hit…. The series ends Sunday with Atlanta’s Julio Teheran facing Johnny Cueto in a matchup of right-handers with ERAs under 2.00.