Braves rookie Sean Newcomb relied on some clutch defense — including his own creative play — to frustrate the Cincinnati Reds.
Tyler Flowers’ grand slam broke open a close game in Atlanta’s six-run fifth inning, Newcomb earned his first home win and the Braves beat Cincinnati 8-1 on Sunday.
Newcomb (2-7) gave up five hits with five walks in five scoreless innings for his first victory since June 27 at San Diego. He improved to 1-6 in eight starts at SunTrust Park.
Strong defensive plays by Newcomb and Ozzie Albies kept the Reds from scoring in the third after loading the bases with one out.
Albies made a leaping grab at second base of Joey Votto’s liner for the second out. Adam Duvall then hit a slow grounder that bounced past Newcomb before the pitcher chased it down, falling to the ground. Still on the turf, Newcomb flung the ball on a bounce to Freddie Freeman at first base in time for the out.
“I couldn’t get it with the glove so I had to make a little dive at it,” Newcomb said. “I chipped it a little bit and once I was on the ground I was able to get it.”
Asked to describe the awkward toss to Freeman, Newcomb said: “I just had to get it toward the bag.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker said Newcomb “was just fighting like heck to make a play.”
Newcomb, who is 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, has struggled with control problems but has a 3.31 ERA over his last six starts.
“I love the way he competes,” Snitker said. “It’s not perfect, but he doesn’t ever give in and his stuff is live. … There’s a lot there to like.”
Cincinnati also left the bases loaded in the fifth, when Newcomb ended the inning on Scott Schebler’s fly ball to shallow center field.
The Braves led 2-0 before the big fifth against Reds reliever Drew Storen. Atlanta scored four runs in the inning before Storen got his first out. Brandon Phillips singled and moved to third on Freeman’s ground-rule double. An intentional walk to Nick Markakis loaded the bases before Flowers’ homer to left field.
Phillips and Freeman each had three hits.
The Reds were denied their first series sweep in Atlanta since 2009. Storen gave up six runs while getting only two outs.
Phillip Ervin’s run-scoring single off Max Fried in the ninth ended the Braves’ bid for a combined shutout.
Luis Castillo (2-6) gave up two runs on four hits and two walks in four innings. It was the shortest of the rookie’s 12 starts with the Reds.
“They were able to foul off a lot of good pitches,” Castillo said. “I went out there and didn’t have my best stuff and just competed.”
Reds SS Zack Cozart was held out for the second straight day after he was hit by a pitch on his left shin Friday night. Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said he is “optimistic” Cozart can return Tuesday following Monday’s off day. Price said Cozart is “still quite sore.”
Phillips had two of his three hits , both singles, in the fifth against his former teammates. He scored two runs and drove in a run. He has at least one hit and a run scored in six straight games and is hitting .290. He also has impressed Snitker with his “unbelievable” defense since moving to third base to clear a spot for Albies. “It’s so relaxing just to have him over there,” Snitker said.
Flowers’ grand slam was the ninth allowed by Reds pitchers this season, setting a team record.
Reds: RHP Homer Bailey (4-6, 8.44 ERA) is scheduled to make his second straight start against the Cubs on Tuesday after giving up six runs over 5 2/3 innings in a 7-6 loss Wednesday.