Atlanta is in a similar position in the NL East, with the freshly revamped and red-hot Phillies on their tail.
The Reds-Braves series opener reached extra innings before Atlanta staved off Cincinnati in 10, winning 6-4. It was particularly fitting, since the Braves lead the National League in wins in their last at-bat (17), followed closely by the Reds (15), who pushed Friday's game to extras via an eighth-inning homer from Joey Votto.
"You know what? I think we'll come [Saturday] and keep pushing and give another good effort," Votto said. "That's the way this team plays and that's the way the personalities on this team react."
The Braves will be looking to Jair Jurrjens to earn them a win, something he's been doing with regularity since returning from a stint on the disabled list. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his past three starts. His last start, against the Marlins, did see him allow four earned runs, although manager Bobby Cox wasn't worried by that at all.
"J.J. pitched a heck of a game, he really did," Cox said. "The four runs in that [fourth] inning were just stupid runs. A dribbler up the middle, a dribbler to the right side, a hit-and-run dribbler and one ball hit good, [by Wes] Helms. That was it -- four runs. I thought he was outstanding. It's just a shame that we lose that game."
Jurrjens has been somewhat of a stopper for the Braves, but Saturday he'll have to hurdle the Reds, something he's never done in his career. Jurrjens is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA lifetime against Cincy.
But Jurrjens can't gain the win alone, he'll need some support from Atlanta's bats, which have been caught sleeping recently. After a quiet series in Washington, the Braves tallied 12 hits in the opener on Friday night, but left 12 runners on base. They'll have to do their damage Saturday against Bronson Arroyo, who is fresh off a stellar start in which he allowed three runs on three hits over eight innings.
Braves: Bullpen gets some good news
With the threat of a depleted bullpen for the weekend hanging over their heads, the Braves got two pieces of good news on Friday. Major League Baseball officially rescinded Jonny Venters' four-game suspension, making him available -- he allowed the home run to Votto on Friday night. Also, the Braves got encouraging news on left-hander Eric O'Flaherty, who has been out since before the All-Star break after being weakened with a viral infection. O'Flaherty threw on Friday, and while the Braves still aren't sure when he will be back in the mix, the results were enough to leave Atlanta feeling good about his progress. "From what I hear, it went great," Cox said.
Reds: Arroyo hungry for a victory
The Reds send one of their veteran arms to the hill on Saturday in Arroyo. The right-hander will be looking for some run support of his own after eating a no-decision for his last start against the Brewers. He allowed three runs, but it wasn't enough for the Reds. His efficiency was what was impressive as he hurled 66 of 88 pitches for strikes. But without the win, he wasn't satisfied. "I was hoping to keep riding it out and maybe get a 10-inning win instead of an eight-inning loss," Arroyo said.
The Braves have gone 18-8 against the NL Central this season, their best mark against any NL division. ... The Reds rank second in the Majors with 30 come-from-behind wins but couldn't get it done on Friday. ... The home run that Venters surrendered to Votto in the eighth inning Friday was the first of his career. ... Billy Wagner pitched a scoreless ninth inning on Friday for his 24th save.
Sat, 7/31 4:10 PM ET
Ryan's hope: Hanigan atones for miscue
Ryan Hanigan, who made a first-inning error that helped get the Braves going, made amends in the seventh, doubling in two runs and scoring on Melky Cabrera's error on the play to put the Reds ahead for good.
|Jones, C, 3B||3||0||0||0||1||0||2||.251|
|Gonzalez, Al, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||4||.259|
|Cabrera, Me, CF||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||.265|
|Dunn, M, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Phillips, B, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.286|
|Cabrera, O, SS||4||0||1||0||0||0||2||.259|
|Gomes, J, LF||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.269|
|a-Nix, L, PH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.279|
2B: Infante (9, Arroyo).
TB: Infante 4; McCann 3; Cabrera, Me.
RBI: Hinske (40).
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Hinske; Heyward.
GIDP: Gonzalez, Al; Jones, C.
Team RISP: 2-for-9.
Team LOB: 9.
E: Cabrera, Me (4, throw), Gonzalez, Al (12, missed catch).
Outfield assists: Heyward 2 (Cabrera, O at home, Rolen at 2nd base).
2B: Cabrera, O (24, Jurrjens), Rolen (21, Jurrjens), Hanigan (7, Jurrjens).
HR: Rolen (18, 4th inning off Jurrjens, 0 on, 2 out).
TB: Cabrera, O 2; Votto; Rolen 6; Gomes, J; Bruce; Hanigan 2; Nix, L.
RBI: Rolen (62), Bruce (41), Hanigan 2 (24).
2-out RBI: Rolen; Hanigan 2.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Rolen; Cabrera, O; Stubbs.
Team RISP: 4-for-8.
Team LOB: 5.
E: Hanigan (4, throw).
DP: 2 (Arroyo-Cabrera, O-Votto, Rolen-Phillips, B-Votto).
Pitches-strikes: Jurrjens 104-70, Moylan 6-6, Dunn, M 23-11, Arroyo 89-58, Rhodes 10-5, Masset 12-6, Cordero 25-17.
Groundouts-flyouts: Jurrjens 7-3, Moylan 2-0, Dunn, M 0-1, Arroyo 11-5, Rhodes 0-0, Masset 1-0, Cordero 0-1.
Batters faced: Jurrjens 27, Moylan 2, Dunn, M 5, Arroyo 29, Rhodes 2, Masset 2, Cordero 5.
Inherited runners-scored: Moylan 1-0, Masset 1-0.
Umpires: HP: Angel Campos. 1B: Alfonso Marquez. 2B: Tim Timmons. 3B: Bob Davidson.
Weather: 78 degrees, cloudy.
Wind: 5 mph, In from CF.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media