As the Braves fight for a National League Wild Card spot, they can count on some stability from Ervin Santana, who will try to help Atlanta erase its one-game deficit to the Giants for the second NL Wild Card when the Braves take on the Reds on Saturday at Great American Ball Park.
Santana's season began like a roller coaster as he posted a 1.99 ERA in his first six starts before compiling a 6.44 ERA in his next six. In 12 starts since then, he owns a 3.33 ERA much more befitting of his one-year, $14.1 million contract.
Although he surrendered three solo home runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Pirates on Monday, Santana gave up three earned runs or fewer for the 10th time in his past 12 outings. His recent consistency has the right-hander smiling.
"I didn't have my stuff today, but for me it was one of my best games because I gave up three runs," Santana said. "When you don't have your best stuff and you only give up three runs, that's huge. Three solo homers, that doesn't hurt."
Mike Leake's club has not had much to smile about lately as the Reds have lost seven straight games, falling seven games below .500 and fading from the postseason race. Leake is the only starter to go more than six innings in a start during this ongoing skid.
However, Leake was not very efficient in those seven innings on Monday, surrendering four earned runs against the Cardinals. The right-hander has given up nine earned runs over his past two starts, surrendering four earned runs or more in eight of his 15 starts since June.
"Obviously, we didn't do what we wanted to do," Leake said Monday night. "At least we didn't put up the same type of game as in Colorado [where the Reds lost three of four, including a Sunday doubleheader that began their losing streak]."
Braves: Upton enjoying sizzling August
Justin Upton delivered a victory with a two-run homer on Friday night, adding yet another big hit to his terrific August. He is hitting .324 (23-for-71) with six homers, 11 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs.
But August has simply been a continuation of Upton's stellar July. In a stretch that began on July 4, Upton has hit safely in 35 of 44 games. He's batting .333 (53-for-159) with nine homers, 14 doubles, a triple and 40 RBIs during that span.
Reds: Club recalls Corcino
Cincinnati recalled right-hander Daniel Corcino from Double-A Pensacola on Friday, optioning left-hander David Holmberg to Triple-A Louisville. When Corcino first appears in a game, he will be the fourth Red to make his Major League debut in 2014.
Corcino has not fared too well with Pensacola this season, going 10-11 with a 4.13 ERA and 4.4 walks per nine innings.
• The Braves have won four of their first five games on their current road trip after finishing their last tour away from Turner Field 0-8.
• The Reds have gone through two seven-game losing streaks during the second half, resulting in the evaporation of their postseason aspirations. Cincinnati was 51-44 and 1 1/2 games out of first in the NL Central going into the All-Star break.
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.