CINCINNATI (AP) — Joey Votto’s hitting has finally come around midway through the season, just like it did last year.
Votto, Zack Cozart and Eugenio Suarez all homered in the fourth inning as the Cincinnati Reds got the better of a matchup between the NL’s two worst teams, beating the Atlanta Braves 8-2 on Monday night.
The Reds (35-58) have taken three of five this season against the Braves, who have the majors’ worst record (32-61). Atlanta is 19-31 all-time at Great American Ball Park, including five losses in its last six games.
The Reds connected three times off Matt Wisler (4-9), who has given up five homers in his last two starts. Cozart led off the fourth with his 15th homer, and Votto extended his second-half resurgence with a two-run shot. In four games since returning from the All-Star break, Votto is 8 for 15.
“Early in the season, I was struggling hitting fastballs over the plate,” said Votto, who was batting .213 at the end of May. “That’s something I needed to correct. You can’t play in this league without being able to hit fastballs. That was step one, and you go from there.”
Suarez’s two-run homer just inside the left-field foul pole made it 5-1. Votto later added an RBI single.
The former NL Most Valuable Player also had a subpar first half last season, then led the majors by batting .362 after the All-Star break. So far this July, he’s batting .351.
“I’ve got a great feeling,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “He’s able to play without the frustration that goes with those early struggles. That’s a relief for me to see him go out there just playing baseball. He looks very much like the player who enjoyed a ridiculous second half last year.”
Left-hander Brandon Finnegan (5-7) pitched into the sixth and gave up seven hits — three of them by Adonis Garcia, who hit a solo homer in the sixth. Finnegan had lost three of his last four starts, giving up 20 runs in 19 innings.
Wisler won his last start, 11-8 over the White Sox in Chicago on July 8 despite giving up six runs, including two homers. Since the start of June, he’s 2-4 in eight starts with a 7.06 ERA.
“The ball started getting up,” Wisler said. “Once the ball started getting up, they started teeing it up on me. I can’t keep having outings like this. It’s frustrating.”
Billy Hamilton singled three times, scored a run and stole three bases for a total of 27, the third-most in the NL.
Mauricio Cabrera threw a pitch at 103.8 mph, according to MLB’s Statcast system. It’s the ninth-fastest pitch since Statcast began tracking last year. The eight higher ones were thrown by Aroldis Chapman, including a 105.1 mph one Monday night.
Wisler also gave up three homers in an inning on June 11 against the Cubs. … It was the third time this season that the Reds hit three homers in an inning. They also did it April 23 against the Cubs and May 4 against the Giants. … Garcia has hit safely in all five games against the Reds this season, going 11 for 22 with two homers. … Cozart’s 15 homers match his career high. He most recently hit 15 in 2012. Twelve of his 15 have been solo shots.
Reds C Devin Mesoraco had surgery on his right hip Monday, his third major operation in a year. He had surgery on the left hip last season and was back for opening day. He had surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. The right hip started bothering him early this season, and doctors advised that it would require surgery at some point as well.
Braves: RH Shae Simmons threw a simulated game on Monday. He’s recovering from Tommy John surgery in February 2015.
Reds: 2B Brandon Phillips was back in the lineup after missing two games with a strained right calf. He went 1 for 3 — extending his hitting streak to seven games — and left for a pinch hitter in the seventh.
Braves: RHP Tyrell Jenkins (0-1, 4.50) makes his second career start and sixth major league appearance.
Reds: LHP Cody Reed (0-4, 8.39) makes his sixth career start. He has failed to last five innings in his last three starts.
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