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Ian Anderson struggles as Braves fall to Reds 6-3

Atlanta splits its opening series with Cincinnati

Cincinnati Reds v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Travis d’Arnaud and Matt Olson both homered, but a five-run third inning was more than the Atlanta Braves could overcome in a 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

Ian Anderson allowed a single and a walk to Jonathan India and Tyler Naquin to begin the game, but got two pop outs and a grounder to escape the first with no damage, though he did need 28 pitches to finish the frame. He walked one in a scoreless second, but again ran into trouble with the top of the order in the third.

India walked to lead off the frame and then came around to score on a bloop, 78 mph double by Naquin into the right field corner. Naquin moved up to third on a groundout by Tommy Pham before Anderson issued his fourth walk of the game to Joey Votto, putting runners at the corners. After Tyler Stephenson walked to load the bases, Anderson nearly escaped as Nick Senzel grounded to Swanson, but beat the relay throw at first. The Braves challenged, but replay upheld the ruling on the field. Votto scored to make it 2-0. Colin Moran followed with a weak single (34 percent hit probability) to right that pushed Cincinnati’s lead to 3-0.

Anderson was replaced by Sean Newcomb, who threw a wild pitch and then immediately served up a flared, 82-mph-off-the-bat two-run single to Kyle Farmer to make it 5-0. Jake Fraley grounded out to first to bring the inning to a merciful end.

It was a tough day for Anderson, who struggled from the start. He allowed three hits, five walks and five runs in just 2 2/3 innings. Anderson threw 74 pitches with 39 going for strikes. He seemed to have trouble getting his changeup at a place where hitters would offer at it, and while the low fastball has been a constant curiosity of his arsenal since his debut, he wasn’t able to throw it today, which may have made it much easier for Reds batters to lay off his changeups.

Reds rookie Hunter Greene, on the other hand was impressive early in his major league debut. Greene struck out Matt Olson and Austin Riley to complete a scoreless first. He issued a one-out walk to Ozzie Albies in the second, but again finished off the frame with back-to-back strikeouts. Greene showed his trademark velocity and had the Braves completely off balance for the first three innings.

The Braves finally got some good swings against Greene in the fourth. Olson led off the inning with a single and moved all the way to third on a double off the center field wall by Riley. Marcell Ozuna followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Olson to cut the deficit to 5-1. Ozzie Albies walked to put runners at first and second, but Adam Duvall flied out to shallow right for the second out. Alex Dickerson then hit a liner that Votto was able to snag with a dive to end the threat.

The Reds got that run back in the fifth, when Tyler Stephenson connected with a solo shot to left off of Newcomb to make it 6-1. However, Travis d’Arnaud led off the bottom half of the frame with an opposite field shot to pull the Braves back within four.

Two batters later, Olson squared up a 101 mph fastball from Greene and sent it out at 110.8 mph for his first home run in a Braves uniform to make it 6-3.

Collin McHugh took over for Newcomb in the sixth and stranded a runner at third with one out, then worked a perfect seventh and retired two more in the eighth before giving way to Tyler Thornburg. McHugh struck out the first four hitters he faced and ended with five in 2 1/3 innings of work.

The Braves got hits from Dansby Swanson in the seventh and another from Olson in the eighth, but were unable to cash them in. Olson finished with three hits on the day giving him eight in the series. Atlanta managed just six hits in the game and left five men on base. Tyler Naquin and Kyle Farmer each finished with two hits for Cincinnati.

Atlanta has to settle for a split in their four-game series, mostly driven by very different results on balls hit into play, irrespective of the quality of contact. That made for an incredibly frustrating series, as the Braves dominated the Reds offensively everywhere but in the runs column. They will continue their homestand Monday when they begin a three-game series against the Washington Nationals.

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