The Cincinnati Reds acquired Shin-Soo Choo in the hopes that he could provide some improvement in the leadoff spot.
He's certainly doing that, and now he's also coming through in the clutch.
A day after connecting for a walkoff homer, Choo looks to continue his stellar production at home and help the Reds to another victory over the Atlanta Braves in the finale of this three-game set Wednesday.
Choo spent six-plus seasons in Cleveland, playing mostly in right field and batting third. Still, Cincinnati (19-15) felt he could solve its issues at the top of the lineup while playing center field, and acquired him in a three-team, nine-player trade in December.
The Reds got a .208 average and .254 on-base percentage out of leadoff hitters last year, and so far the addition of Choo is proving to be a very good one.
Choo is among the best leadoff hitters in baseball with a .333 average, a .465 on-base percentage and 27 runs, while leading Cincinnati with seven homers. He's been particularly impressive at home, where he's batting .413 with a .560 on-base percentage and 17 runs in helping the Reds win 13 of 18 at Great American Ball Park.
Choo is also hitting .359 with two homers and six RBIs beyond the sixth inning.
"He's the best closer in the league," Choo said of Kimbrel, who has blown three of 13 save opportunities to match his total from all of last year.
The Reds have won nine of 11 at home against Atlanta (19-13), hitting 20 homers and averaging 4.6 runs.
Mike Leake (2-1, 4.15) is scheduled to get the ball in an effort to continue his success against the Braves.
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three career meetings, pitching eight strong innings in a 4-1 victory May 21 in the only home matchup.
Leake allowed two runs and scattered nine hits over 5 2-3 innings in a 6-5 victory at Wrigley Field on Friday.
He's 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in three home starts.
Tuesday's loss was the eighth in 11 road games for the Braves, who are batting .220 in those contests.
They're also becoming frustrated with their struggles in Cincinnati.
"Anytime we're here, the ballpark is kind of an excuse," said Kris Medlen , who allowed two runs in seven innings and was in line for the win Tuesday. "But that Mesoraco fly ball is a fly-ball out in a lot of places."
Scheduled starter Mike Minor (3-2, 3.26) has allowed four homers over his last two games after yielding one in his first 19 innings.
After allowing six runs over 6 2-3 innings in an 8-3 loss at Detroit, the left-hander struggled early in Friday's 7-5, 10-inning loss to the Mets, giving up three runs on two homers in the first two innings. However, he rebounded by retiring his last 18 batters before exiting after the seventh.
In his only start against the Reds, Minor was reached for a career-high four homers in six innings of a 4-1 road loss opposite Leake on May 21.
He'll want to be careful with Joey Votto , who is hitting .425 over the past 10 games after getting three hits in this series.
|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) -- Dan Uggla and Juan Francisco helped Atlanta quickly forget a terrible ending.
Uggla hit a pair of solo homers and Francisco added his first career grand slam as the Braves recovered from a stunning last-swing loss by beating the Cincinnati Reds 7-2 Wednesday.
Atlanta took two of three in the series, the first the Reds lost at home this season. The Reds are 13-6 at Great American Ball Park, the most home wins the majors.
Devin Mesoraco and Shin-Soo Choo hit two-out homers in the ninth inning for Cincinnati's 5-4 win on Tuesday night. A day later, one of the NL's top power teams got the better of it. Atlanta came into the game tied with Colorado for the NL lead with 44 homers.
"A good win after what happened last night," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Good resilience with this club."
Uggla had solo shots in the fourth and sixth innings off Mike Leake (2-2), his first multihomer game this season. Leake pitched into the eighth, ending a streak of six straight subpar starts by the Reds rotation.
"One of those less-stressful wins, I guess you could say," Uggla said.
The Braves took all the stress out of it by sending nine batters to the plate for five runs in the eighth off three Reds pitchers. Francisco hit the Braves' first grand slam of the season off J.J. Hoover, the player he was traded for last year.
His fifth homer landed in the Braves' bullpen down the right field line.
"Juan's got some juice," Gonzalez said. "You just get the ball up in the air here."
Francisco said he got no extra pleasure from hitting the grand slam against the team that traded him away.
"It just felt good that I got first grand slam in major leagues," he said.
The top of the lineup had a big day, too. Jordan Schafer had three hits, and Andrelton Simmons had a career-high four hits in the top two spots.
Left-hander Mike Minor (4-2) allowed four hits in seven innings, including Zack Cozart 's homer in the third. He got Leake to fly out with two out and two aboard in the seventh, throwing 117 pitches overall.
Last year, Leake homered off Minor's changeup. This time, he got nothing but fastballs.
"Minor looks like he has more confidence than he did last year," Leake said.
The Reds stranded a pair of runners in scoring position against Minor and had another thrown out at the plate. The left-hander has gotten a lot better at pitching out of trouble, one reason that Gonzalez left him in to finish the seventh.
"The main change from last year is if things do go bad, I don't dwell on that," Minor said. "I can move on to the next batter."
Jay Bruce had a solo shot in the ninth off Anthony Varvaro .
The game matched starting pitchers taken back-to-back in the 2009 amateur draft. Minor was taken seventh out of Vanderbilt, with Leake drafted next out of Arizona State. They faced each other in college.
There was a replay review in the fourth, when Evan Gattis hit a long foul down the third base line. Gonzalez talked to the umpires, who reviewed the play for 3 minutes, 5 seconds and upheld the call. Gattis struck out on the next pitch.
Up came Uggla, who homered on the following pitch to tie it at 1. Uggla is 4 for 10 career off Leake with three homers.
Both teams wasted early bases-loaded opportunities.
Cincinnati loaded the bases with no outs in the second. Donald Lutz flied out to left field, and Gattis threw out Brandon Phillips at the plate as he tagged on the play. The Braves loaded the bases with one out in the third before Freddie Freeman grounded into a double play.
NOTES: The Braves head to San Francisco for a four-game series. The Reds are off Thursday before hosting Milwaukee. ... Uggla has a six-game hitting streak. ... Simmons has seven multi-hit games in his last 16. ... Braves C Brian McCann , who returned from the DL at the start of the series, got the day off. McCann had surgery on his throwing shoulder last October. ... The Reds' 5-4 win on Tuesday night marked the first time since 1977 that Cincinnati won a game with a pair of two-out homers in the ninth. Dan Driessen and Johnny Bench had homers off Philadelphia's Tug McGraw for a 6-5 win. Driessen's homer was inside the park.
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