McCoy: Reds bullpen battered by Braves

For the first time this season, Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Mike Minor pitched as if he is a legitimate major league pitcher.

He turned in his first quality start while wearing a Reds uniform Friday night in Great American Ball Park against the potent and powerful Atlanta Braves.

He was nicked for only two runs over six innings and the Reds were only one run down when he departed.

Then, as happens night after night after night, the bullpen happened. And Atlanta took batting practice.

The Braves scored seven runs in three innings off Joel Kuhnel, Luis Cessa and Jeff Hoffman.

When it was over, Atlanta owned a 9-1 victory in a game seemingly played in Atlanta-North. The crowd was heavily cheering for the Braves and ‘The Chop’ even made an appearance.

The Reds have lost three straight and hit the 50-loss level with five games remaining before they reach the halfway point of the season as they continue their inexorable march toward 100 losses.

The challenge Friday night had a high difficulty rating. They were facing left-hander Max Fried, he of the 7-and-2 record. He made it 8-and-2 with a 2.66 earned run average, holding the Reds to one run and five hits over seven innings.

It was the same old Minor in the first inning. He hit the first batter he faced, Ronald Acuna Jr., with a pitch, but Dansby Swanson hit into a double play.

With two outs, Matt Olson singled and Austin Riley cleared the center field wall, his 19th home run. And it was the 11th home run given up by Minor in 26 1/3 innings.

After that, though, Minor pitched the best game while wearing a Reds uniform — 5 1/3 innings, no runs, four hits, no walks, three strikeouts.

The Reds scored a run off Fried in the third. Nick Senzel singled, Jonathan India singled and Tommy Pham singled for a run.

With two on and two outs, Joey Votto grounded out. He stranded four runners in his first two at bats after hitting into a double play in the first inning with two on. And for the night, Votto stranded six runners.

Minor left after six innings, down 2-1, and he was credited with his first quality start as a member of the Reds.

Then as so often happens with the Reds, the bullpen intervened.

Kuhnel retired the first two, then walked Michael Harris Jr., and gave up a double to Acuna. Swanson cleared the center field wall and cleared the bases, a three-run home run to make it 5-1.

Swanson came into the game 0 for 12, but the home run was his third hit of the game and he finished with four hits, three for extra bases.

Cessa, a major struggler recently, began the eighth by throwing eight straight pitches out of the strike zone, two walks.

He went to 3-and-1 on Marcel Ozuna and induced a pop-up. Former Reds outfielder Adam Duvall doubled to left for a run and it was 6-1 with runners on third and second.

Orlando Arcia bounced a two-run single to left and it was officially out of hand, 8-1.

It was no different in the ninth. Hoffman didn’t give up three, only one that finished it at 9-1.

The Reds finished with six hits, all singles — three by Pham.

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