The Atlanta Braves have had trouble recapturing the magic from their best start in 19 years but should get a big boost in the opener to a lengthy road trip.
Atlanta (18-12) heads into its 10-game trek after avoiding a fourth straight loss Sunday with a 9-4 win over the New York Mets . Freddie Freeman homered and drove in three runs, and Reed Johnson also had three RBIs as the Braves plated their most runs since a 10-2 win in Colorado on April 23.
Sunday's victory was only the sixth in 17 games for Atlanta following a 12-1 start, its best since opening 13-1 in 1994. The Braves won their first seven road games this year before dropping seven of the last nine.
McCann will try to help them turn around those road woes in his return from shoulder surgery. The six-time All-Star catcher wrapped up his rehab stint with Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday.
"That's huge," Freeman said. "That's like trading for an All-Star."
McCann has hit at least 20 homers in five of his last six seasons but batted a career-low .230 in 2012.
"I feel great. I feel like I did before I had my surgery," he told the team's website. "I'm ready to go and get the season started."
One issue with McCann's return, however, is that he plays the same position as Evan Gattis , the NL rookie of the month for April. Gattis, who had two hits Sunday, is second on the team with seven homers and 18 RBIs. He's expected to play behind McCann and may see time at first base or in the outfield.
The Braves have been limited to 20 runs while dropping seven of eight to Cincinnati. They've lost six straight at Great American Ballpark, where the Reds are 12-4 this season and have a major league-best 2.32 ERA.
Cincinnati (18-14) enters this series after a 5-5 road trip, capped by a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field this weekend. Though the Reds beat the Cubs 7-4 on Sunday, they lost second baseman Brandon Phillips to an undisclosed injury.
"I'm just happy we won the game and won the series," Phillips said. "I play hurt all the time. Things happen. I'll be in there tomorrow."
He surely won't want to sit out Monday considering he's batting .370 with six RBIs in his last seven games, and he's a career .353 hitter (18 for 51) with four homers against Braves scheduled starter Paul Maholm (3-3, 3.08 ERA).
Maholm is 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA in his past five starts against the Reds and 5-1 with a 2.62 ERA in the last 12.
The left-hander has received one run of support over his past three outings and lost them all, but only one of them was bad - eight runs in 3 2-3 innings at Detroit on April 26. Maholm went a season-high eight innings Wednesday against Washington, giving up two runs and three hits in a 2-0 loss.
Like Maholm, Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo (2-3, 3.95) was a hard-luck loser in his most recent outing. He gave up two runs over seven innings in a 2-1 defeat at St. Louis on Tuesday.
Arroyo is 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA in three home starts this season, and he's 2-0 with a 3.26 ERA in his past five matchups with the Braves.
McCann is 9 for 18 with four home runs all-time against Arroyo and has hit .364 with seven longballs in his last 13 games versus Cincinnati.
|May 05, 2013||Juan Francisco||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|April 25, 2013||Luis Ayala||15-Day DL||Anxiety disorder|
|April 23, 2013||Jason Heyward||Day-to-Day||Appendectomy|
|April 21, 2013||Jason Heyward||15-Day DL||Appendectomy|
|April 20, 2013||Dan Uggla||Day-to-Day||Left game - left calf strain|
|April 20, 2013||Blake DeWitt||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|April 27, 2013||Chris Heisey||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 27, 2013||Chris Heisey||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained hamstring|
|April 24, 2013||Manny Parra||15-Day DL||Strained left pectoral muscle|
|April 22, 2013||Jonathan Broxton||Day-to-Day||Bruised right hand|
|April 20, 2013||Zack Cozart||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right hand|
|April 20, 2013||Ryan Hanigan||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Andrelton Simmons is starting to get noticed for more than those amazing defensive plays.
The young shortstop homered twice and drove in a career-high four runs on Monday night, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 7-4 victory that ended the Cincinnati Reds ' winning streak at three games.
The Braves won at a place where they've had little success lately. They were 0-4 at Great American Ball Park last year and 14-25 overall since it opened for the 2003 season.
Simmons led the way on offense, something he hasn't had to do very often. The first multihomer game of his career allowed the Braves to get ahead and pull away.
"When all is said and done after this year, we're going to be talking about him as one of the best shortstops in baseball," catcher Brian McCann said.
Simmons worked on his swing when Saturday's game against the Mets was rained out, trying to keep his bat back a little longer so he could generate more power. The work is quickly paying off.
"That rainout really helped," said Simmons, who has four homers. "I feel like I'm where I want to be right now."
He showed a little more defense, too. His best play came in the seventh, when he caught a hurried throw between his legs and tagged out out Shin-Soo Choo as he tried to steal second base.
"He's pretty acrobatic," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I remember someone asking me in spring training: What's the best defensive play he's made? It's the next one. It's one after another with him."
Paul Maholm (4-3) held down an offense that's been all-or-nothing. The left-hander allowed four hits and two runs in 5 2-3 innings. Cincinnati stranded five runners in scoring position overall.
Craig Kimbrel gave up a pair of singles in the ninth before fanning Joey Votto , picking up his 10th save in 12 opportunities.
Atlanta scored in four of five innings against Bronson Arroyo (2-4), who gave up eight hits, walked two and allowed four runs in his shortest outing of the season.
"They have a really powerful lineup with a lot of threats, which makes you be a little more nitpicky," Arroyo said. "You end up throwing a lot more pitches than you normally would. You'd think the only guy you don't worry about hitting home runs is the eighth guy (Simmons), and he ends up taking me deep."
Simmons had a solo shot and an RBI single off Arroyo. He added a two-run homer in the eighth off Logan Ondrusek , matching his career high for hits.
Freddie Freeman also singled and doubled and drove in a run off Arroyo, who needed 98 pitches to get through five innings. Jordan Schafer added his first career pinch-hit homer as the Braves pulled away.
The injury-sapped Braves got a little closer to full strength when McCann was activated off the disabled list, completing a comeback from surgery on his throwing shoulder last October. The six-time All-Star catcher started and went 0 for 4 with a walk.
"Felt great," McCann said. "The first day couldn't have gone any better."
Right fielder Jason Heyward also increased his workout activities while recovering from surgery to remove his appendix on April 22. The Braves will decide by the end of the week whether he's ready to start a rehab assignment in the minors.
The Braves made it tough on Arroyo from the outset. Freeman singled home a run in the first inning, but Atlanta left the bases loaded when Dan Uggla struck out.
Simmons led off the second inning with a homer down the third-base line. Uggla opened the fourth with his second triple of the season - a ball into the gap in right-center field - and scored on Simmons' single off the glove of Zack Cozart in the hole at shortstop for a 3-0 lead.
Evan Gattis doubled home a run in the fifth off Arroyo. The Braves pulled away with three runs in the eighth off Ondrusek.
Votto doubled home a run in the eighth inning, extending his hitting streak to nine games.
NOTES: The Braves optioned utility player Tyler Pastornicky to Triple-A Gwinnett to open a roster spot for McCann. ... Simmons has six multihit games in his last 14. ... Choo was hit by a pitch for the 11th time. ... Alfredo Simon fanned the six Braves he faced, the first Reds pitcher to strike out six in a row since Aaron Harang in 2008. ... Reds RHP Johnny Cueto threw 25 pitches in the bullpen without problem. Cueto has been on the DL since April 15 with a strained muscle in his back. ... NFL receiver and Hall of Fame inductee Cris Carter threw a ceremonial pitch to former NBA player and coach Butch Carter. Judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison took out the lineup card.
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