For the Reds, the calendar flip can't help but bring a sharp sense of optimism. Cincinnati is one of just three big league teams -- along with National League West-leading Padres and American League East-leading Yankees -- that have posted a winning record in each of the season's four months. The Reds hadn't done that for even three straight months since 1992, two years after the team's last World Series title.
Right now, Cincinnati is enjoying a breakout season from Joey Votto, a true front-runner for the league's Most Valuable Player Award. Votto is leading the National League in two-thirds of the Triple Crown categories -- batting average (.325) and home runs (27) -- and he currently rests third in RBIs (72), within striking distance of league-leader Ryan Howard.
Votto has been extremely consistent this year, logging at least a .400 on-base percentage and a slugging mark at or above .500 in each of the season's first four months. And if he can keep it up, he can be the first NL Triple Crown-winner since Joe "Ducky" Medwick in 1937. Since 1900, only four NL players have led the league in average, homers and RBIs.
The Reds -- who have worked to a 3.15 ERA since June 17, the second-best mark in the Majors -- will send Edinson Volquez to the hill in the series finale. Volquez missed the beginning of the year as he worked back from surgery on his pitching elbow, and in his first three starts since his return, he's managed one victory and has gotten knocked out twice before completing four innings.
The Braves will counter with Tommy Hanson, who's working through a rough patch of his own. Hanson has won just one of his past seven starts, and he's been removed before completing five innings twice in that span. If you excise one start from his season -- a nine-earned-run outing against the White Sox -- his ERA would drop by a half-run. (from 3.99 to 3.49).
Braves: Moves add outfield, bullpen options
The Braves made a few moves to add depth to their roster on Saturday, when they acquired outfielder Rick Ankiel and veteran reliever Kyle Farnsworth from Kansas City in exchange for a three-prospect haul. Atlanta also acquired toolsy outfield prospect Wilkin Ramirez from Detroit, sending cash or a player to be named to the Tigers.
Ankiel, hurt for most of the season, has hit .367 (11-for-30) with a homer and a .973 OPS since returning from the disabled list July 22. Farnsworth has worked to a 3-0 record with a 2.42 ERA in 37 appearances this season. The Braves dealt reliever Jesse Chavez, outfielder Gregor Blanco and prospect Tim Collins -- who had just been acquired in the Yunel Escobar trade -- to Kansas City.
Reds: Heisey focusing on his role
Chris Heisey is producing when the Reds call his name, and he doesn't spend any mental energy stressing for a greater share of reponsibility. The rookie has performed well as a pinch-hitter and late-inning substitute, batting .423 (11-for-26) off the bench and .389 (7-for-18) as a pinch-hitter. For now, the former 17th-round Draft pick is trying to stay patient.
"I want to start, but when I get to the park and don't see my name in the lineup I'm never mad or anything like that," said Heisey of his still developing job on the team. "I know my role. At this point, we're winning, so I'm fine with it."
Veteran Scott Rolen homered and doubled on Saturday, giving him 1,901 hits for his distinguished career. ... Jonny Gomes has 99 career home runs and 300 RBIs. ... The Reds honored Atlanta manager Bobby Cox at home plate before the game. Cox, who is retiring after his 29th season as a manager, drew a standing ovation. ... Sunday's anticipated sellout of Great American Ball Park will represent the first time the franchise has had three straight sellouts since 2004. ... Atlanta learned that Martin Prado -- who injured himself on a slide on Friday night -- will be lost for at least a week with a broken knuckle in his right pinky.
Sun, 8/1 1:10 PM ET
E is letter of day as Edinson, error prop up Reds
Edinson Volquez's best stuff was missing in the finale, but he didn't need it to beat Atlanta for the first time in his career. An Alex Gonzalez error in the fifth led to the decisive run, giving the Reds the series win.
|a-Jones, C, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.250|
|Gonzalez, Al, SS||3||1||1||1||0||0||2||.259|
|Cabrera, Me, LF||4||0||0||0||0||2||1||.262|
|Phillips, B, 2B||4||1||1||1||0||0||1||.285|
|Cabrera, O, SS||4||0||2||0||0||0||0||.262|
|Nix, L, LF-CF||3||0||0||0||0||2||1||.272|
|Smith, J, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Hernandez, Ra, C||3||1||1||0||0||0||0||.289|
|a-Gomes, J, PH-LF||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.268|
2B: Heyward (20, Cordero).
HR: Gonzalez, Al (18, 2nd inning off Volquez, 0 on, 0 out).
TB: Heyward 2; Infante 2; Gonzalez, Al 4.
RBI: Gonzalez, Al (53).
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Hinske; Heyward; Ankiel; Gonzalez, Al; Jones, C; Infante.
Team RISP: 1-for-10.
Team LOB: 11.
SB: Infante (4, 2nd base off Volquez/Hernandez, Ra).
E: Gonzalez, Al (13, fielding).
2B: Rolen (22, Hanson).
3B: Phillips, B (4, Hanson).
TB: Phillips, B 3; Cabrera, O 2; Rolen 2; Hernandez, Ra.
RBI: Phillips, B (40).
2-out RBI: Phillips, B.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Rolen; Votto; Cairo.
Team RISP: 0-for-6.
Team LOB: 5.
Pitches-strikes: Hanson 92-66, Venters 6-5, Volquez 96-55, Smith, J 9-7, Bray 27-13, Masset 11-6, Cordero 22-14.
Groundouts-flyouts: Hanson 7-4, Venters 1-0, Volquez 5-2, Smith, J 1-0, Bray 0-2, Masset 3-0, Cordero 1-1.
Batters faced: Hanson 29, Venters 2, Volquez 24, Smith, J 3, Bray 5, Masset 3, Cordero 4.
Umpires: HP: Alfonso Marquez. 1B: Tim Timmons. 2B: Bob Davidson. 3B: Angel Campos.
Weather: 84 degrees, partly cloudy.
Wind: 5 mph, In from CF.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media