Andrelton Simmons spent an unexpected day off making an adjustment to his swing.
Simmons is known for his impressive fielding at shortstop - he's yet to make an error in 126 chances this season - so he worked on his swing when Saturday's game against the New York Mets was rained out. He was trying to keep his bat back a little longer so he could generate more power, and he's certainly found some.
He's 5 for 9 with two doubles, two homers and four RBIs in the last two games, increasing his season average 28 points to .252.
Simmons, who hit .289 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 49 games as a rookie last year, turned in his best performance at the plate in the opener of this three-game series Monday. He collected three hits and had career highs with two homers and four RBIs to spur a 7-4 win over Cincinnati, ending Atlanta's six-game slide there.
"That rainout really helped," said Simmons, who has four homers. "I feel like I'm where I want to be right now."
Simmons has six multihit games in his last 14, batting .321 over that span.
"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," said catcher Brian McCann , who went 0 for 4 with a walk Monday in his return from offseason shoulder surgery.
While a change to his swing is paying off for Simmons, Kris Medlen (1-4, 3.38) takes the mound trying to solve his mechanical issues.
The right-hander has lost three straight starts with a 5.40 ERA.
He struggled early Thursday, giving up three runs in the first two innings before settling down and tossing five scoreless and leaving a 3-1 loss to Washington.
"I'm tired of doing interviews postgame saying, 'I just kept us in the game,'" Medlen said. "If I'd cleaned it up from the get-go, I don't give up any runs."
Medlen has no record while allowing four runs in eight innings over five games versus the Reds. His only start against them came on July 30, 2010, when he allowed three runs in five innings of a 6-4 win in 10 at Great American Ball Park.
The Braves last series win there came when they took two of three from April 24-26, 2009.
Cincinnati, 12-5 at home, is slated to give the ball to Homer Bailey (1-3, 3.38), who will try to continue his success against Atlanta in order to win for the first time since a 15-0 victory over the Nationals in his season debut April 5.
He allowed two hits in six innings of that outing, but is 0-3 with a 4.02 ERA in five starts since.
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in three starts against Atlanta, and both wins have come at home.
He may need some help to end his recent winless stretch, during which he's been backed by three total runs - none in three outings.
Bailey didn't seem to need support much Wednesday, yielding one run through five innings. However, he was charged with three runs and was pulled with one out in the sixth of a 4-2 loss at St. Louis.
Joey Votto is 6 for 31 with two RBIs over his last nine meetings with the Braves. However, his RBI double from Monday is part of a nine-game stretch during which he's batting .417.
|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) -- One of the NL's best closers was one strike away from a milestone save. Devin Mesoraco and Shin-Soo Choo turned everything upside down in a span of five pitches.
Mesoraco homered on a full-count pitch from Craig Kimbrel with two outs in the ninth inning on Tuesday night, and Choo followed with his second homer of the game, rallying the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves .
So sudden, and so shocking for everyone.
"He's the best closer in the league," said Choo, whose second career game-ending homer gave him a team-high seven this season. "This is a big game for us."
Cincinnati's offense has been struggling the last couple of weeks. The Reds were one strike away from another low-scoring loss after Kimbrel (0-1) fanned the first two batters in the ninth and went to a full count on Mesoraco.
Mesoraco hasn't done much pinch hitting, but remembered something that manager Dusty Baker had advised about those pressure situations.
"Dusty says with two strikes, look for their hardest pitch away," Mesoraco said. "I stayed on it."
Center fielder B.J. Upton drifted toward the wall and jumped, the ball narrowly clearing his glove and landing in the first row at one of the majors' most homer-friendly ballparks.
"That was incredible," Mesoraco said of his first career pinch-hit homer. "I watched (Upton). Once he looked up, it was a pretty good feeling."
Kimbrel is only one save away from No. 100 for his career. He'd blown a save last Friday by giving up his first homer of the season, a shot by David Wright that tied it in the ninth. The Mets went on to win 7-5 in 10 innings.
He gave up his second and third homers in quick succession Tuesday.
"All around, it's frustrating," said Kimbrel, who is 10 of 13 in save chances. "I've blown three saves. Those are wins we should have had."
Jonathan Broxton (1-1) retired three batters in the ninth for Cincinnati's fourth win in five games.
The comeback gave Dusty Baker his 1,600th victory as a manager, moving him ahead of Tommy Lasorda for 18th place on the career list.
"That's one of the best I can remember of the 1,600," Baker said. "It might be the top."
The Braves led from the first inning until Kimbrel's last few pitches.
Brian McCann singled with the bases loaded in the first inning - the first hit of his injury-shortened season - as the Braves pulled ahead 3-0 against Homer Bailey . Kris Medlen limited Cincinnati to four hits in seven innings, including Choo's solo homer.
Medlen has five quality starts in his seven appearances, but only one win. Mesoraco's homer snatched away another.
"Anytime we're here, the ballpark is kind of an excuse," Medlen said. "But that Mesoraco fly ball is a fly-ball out in a lot of places."
For the second game in a row, a Reds starter lasted a season-low five innings. Bronson Arroyo gave up four runs in a 7-4 loss in the series opener Monday night. Bailey allowed four runs on five hits and four walks in five innings, leaving for a pinch hitter in the fifth. Donald Lutz batted for Bailey and singled home a run that cut it to 4-2.
Joey Votto 's double in the sixth extended his hitting streak to 10 games, the longest by a Reds player this season. Brandon Phillips ' sacrifice fly in the eighth cut it to 4-3.
The series matches the NL's top two teams at striking out. The Braves lead the league with 297, the Reds are next at 268. Cincinnati's Jay Bruce , who leads the NL with 49 strikeouts, fanned with Votto on third base in the sixth inning. Todd Frazier struck out with two aboard in the eighth.
Andrelton Simmons hit a pair of homers in the series opener and moved up from eighth in Atlanta's batting order to leadoff. He opened the game with a double and scored the first run. He also made a sensational play in the fourth, diving for a grounder in the hole at shortstop and throwing out Bruce at first.
Simmons also made a barehand catch-and-throw to get Choo at first base in the eighth.
NOTES: The game started after a 35-minute rain delay. ... Braves OF Jason Heyward , who had an appendectomy on April 22, took batting practice before the game. The Braves will decide by the end of the week whether he's ready to start a rehab assignment. ... Reds C Ryan Hanigan started a rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville. He's been on the 15-day DL since April 21 with a strained left oblique. ... Jack Hannahan made his fourth start, all at third base. ... It was Choo's eight career multi-homer game.
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