Blame a sudden wave of injuries which took out half of the Braves’ starting position players in the four-game series with Cincinnati.
With Freddie Freeman the latest addition to the injury list, which includes outfielders Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and B.J. Upton, Atlanta didn’t have enough bats to keep up with Jay Bruce and the Reds in Sunday’s 8-4 loss to Cincinnati.
“We lost a lot of key players but the guys that stepped in did a terrific job for us,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “You felt good that we had a chance. Even today. We hit the ball hard.
“Anytime your back is up against it like we were and guys respond, you feel good about your club.”
The Braves hope to have some of their injured starters back when they return from the All-Star break on Friday at the Chicago White Sox.
Andrelton Simmons and Dan Uggla hit homers for NL East-leading Atlanta, which leads Washington by 6 games.
Fill-in outfielders Jose Constanza, Reed Johnson and Joey Terdoslavich combined for one hit after having seven Saturday night.
Julio Teheran (7-5) allowed five runs, seven hits and two walks in 5 ⅔ innings.
Evan Gattis was 0-for-4 in his return from the disabled list after playing only two games in his rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Gattis was the fill-in starter for Freeman. He had been out since June 18 because of a right oblique strain.
Jay Bruce hit a two-run homer in Cincinnati’s four-run third inning. Shin-Soo Choo also homered and the Reds put the game away with three runs in the ninth.
Bruce led the Reds with three hits. Brandon Phillips had a two-run double in the ninth, and Choo had two hits and scored three runs as the Reds split the four-game series.
“It makes for a better All-Star break,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We had a chance to really take three out of four or maybe even sweep them but we’ll take what we got.”
Reds right-hander Logan Ondrusek (3-0) threw two scoreless innings as the second reliever behind Tony Cingrani, who lasted only four innings.
The Reds led 5-3 before scoring three times in the ninth off Anthony Varvaro. Phillips’ double drove in Choo and Joey Votto, and Phillips scored on Todd Frazier’s single.
Control problems pushed up Cingrani’s pitch count. The rookie left-hander, who threw 96 pitches, allowed two runs – one earned – four hits and three walks in four innings. It matched his shortest start.
Cingrani gave up a run in the second but stranded three runners. Reed Johnson singled with two outs and scored on Gerald Laird’s double. Cingrani loaded the bases with two walks, but ended the inning by snagging Jose Constanza’s liner.
Atlanta’s missed opportunity for a bigger inning set the stage for the Reds’ four-run third. Cingrani led off with a bunt single, and Choo also singled before Votto’s double and Brandon Phillips’ groundout each drove in a run. Bruce’s 19th homer pushed the lead to 4-1.
The Braves added an unearned run in the third. Simmons walked, moved to third on Chris Johnson’s single and scored when Reds shortstop Zack Cozart caught a liner by Gattis and then threw wildly to first base in an attempt for a double play.
Constanza made a running catch of Choo’s drive to left field in the first inning and made another leaping grab of a drive by Bruce in front of the wall in the ninth.
Reds closer Aroldis Chapman gave up Simmons’ eighth homer in the ninth.
NOTES: Gattis made his fourth start at first base. He also has started at catcher and left field. ... Teheran matched career highs by giving up five runs and two homers. ... Uggla’s 18 homers are the most for a Braves player at the break since McCann and Chipper Jones had 18 in 2008. ... McCann is a seven-time All-Star. ... Laird has 11 RBIs in 26 games.