Scooter Gennett’s ninth-inning grand slam off Jim Johnson provided the Reds the cushion they needed to overcome a monstrous Matt Adams home run and preserve Robert Stephenson’s encouraging effort in Saturday night’s 11-8 win over the Braves at SunTrust Park.
“It is a crucial time whenever you get runners out there on the bases,” Gennett said. “In that situation, we were up three and to just get some more insurance is huge. Just how the game ended out, it ended up being a big moment.”
Scott Schebler delivered three hits in his first start since being sidelined with a left shoulder strain three weeks ago and Stephenson came off the disabled list to allow just two runs (one earned) over five innings. But when Adams drilled a three-run homer off Blake Wood that traveled a projected 405 feet directly down the right-field line, the Reds were fortunate to have widened their lead in the ninth, when Johnson, Atlanta’s recently demoted closer, surrendered Gennett’s third grand slam of the season.
“We’re just trying to find a spot to get him in to get him right because he’s too good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Johnson, who has an 8.78 ERA over his past 16 appearances. “It’s not happening for him right now. You’ve just got to keep battling through it because we need him because he’s one of those guys who never turns the ball down.”
Schebler, who was in the lineup for the first time since straining his left shoulder on July 30, singled during a three-run fourth inning and doubled during the sixth inning against Julio Teheran, who was plagued by some defensive misfortunes as he allowed five runs (four earned) over six innings. Stephenson allowed two runs (one earned) and three hits as he completed five innings in his first start back from the disabled list.
“It was a little hit-and-miss and [Stephenson] had to battle,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He had guys on base each inning and nothing came easy. He had to make pitches, and there is something to be said about that from a command standpoint.”
Former Red Brandon Phillips highlighted his two-hit night with a third-inning leadoff homer and produced a couple of defensive gems while handling his new third-base role. Kurt Suzuki added a two-run homer in the seventh. But the Braves were unable to overcome Teheran’s early damage and Gennett’s decisive slam.
Teheran created a brief scare when he fell to the ground with the indication he’d been hit on the left hand with a pitch while pulling back on a sacrifice bunt attempt in the second inning. Home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds ruled the pitch hit the bat and the call stood after the Braves requested a replay review. Teheran struck out on the next pitch.
Teheran struck out four of the first six batters he faced, but started to falter after Adam Duvall doubled with one out in the fourth. After Gennett walked, Eugenio Suarez lined a slider to center that took an unusual turn in the outfield grass and eluded Ender Inciarte. Suarez advanced to third base on the play and scored when Schebler followed with a line-drive single that deflected off the glove of Ozzie Albies, who was playing on the infield grass.
The Braves were staring at a manageable three-run deficit when Jason Motte entered to begin the seventh. But the Reds quickly created a much more comfortable lead as Joey Votto scored Jose Peraza from first base with a double, then scored on Gennett’s sacrifice fly.
“Those runs they got [against the bullpen] can hurt you, especially when you mount a rally like that,” Snitker said. “We thought it was going to be the greatest comeback in the sport.”
Luis Castillo takes the mound against Atlanta at SunTrust Park as the series concludes at 1:35 p.m. ET Sunday. Castillo has a 2.48 ERA in six road starts and has recently incorporated a two-seam fastball to his pitching repertoire.
Sean Newcomb will oppose Castillo in the series wrap. Newcomb’s fastball command has been better during his past two starts and he has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his past five outings.