The Atlanta Braves started July with a resounding win, a continuation of the overwhelming success they enjoyed in June. The Cincinnati Reds opened July with another home loss, extending a troubling habit of their own.
The two teams continue their three-game weekend series Saturday in Cincinnati with one team looking to extend one trend and the other hoping to change its luck.
The Braves opened June with an major-league-best 14-game win streak to jump-start their season, and they rode the momentum to an 21-6 record over the month.
At the start of June, the Braves stood 23-27 and 10 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets in the National League East, a division they've captured four straight seasons. Thanks to their stellar month, the Braves now have realistic hopes of making it five in a row.
"Hopefully, I look back in three months and think, 'That's the month that propelled us to another division title,'" Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "These guys should be proud of what they accomplished this month."
The Braves kicked off June by routing the Reds 9-1, extending Cincinnati's home losing streak to nine games. It is Cincinnati's longest skid ever at Great American Ball Park and their longest home slump since dropping nine straight in 2001.
Atlanta will send right-hander Spencer Strider (3-2, 3.02 ERA) to the mound in the middle game of the three-game set.
Strider had a big bounce-back effort against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, allowing only five hits over six scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking none. His effort went to waste as the Dodgers won 5-3, though Strider got a no-decision.
Strider gave up six runs on six hits in just 3 2/3 innings in his previous start against the San Francisco Giants on June 21.
The 23-year-old Ohio native is set for his second career appearance against the Reds and first start. Strider struck out five of the six batters he faced in two perfect innings in relief of Max Fried on Opening Day on April 7.
The Reds will counter with right-hander Tyler Mahle (3-6, 4.53 ERA), making his 17th start of the season. Mahle earned the win on Opening Day against Atlanta, allowing just one unearned run and three hits over five innings in Cincinnati's 6-3 victory.
In his career, Mahle is 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA in four starts against the Braves.
Mahle is looking for wins in consecutive starts for the first time in 2022 after allowing three runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings on Sunday in Cincinnati's 10-3 win at San Francisco.
Reds outfielder Tyler Naquin went 2-for-2 with a homer and three walks on Friday for in a rehab appearance for Triple-A Louisville. He continues to make strides in his effort to return from a strained left quadriceps.
"If I had to guess, it will probably be a week of (rehab) games," Reds manager David Bell said. "He'll rejoin us next weekend or for the very beginning of the road trip. (There's) nothing holding him back at this point other than just getting his at-bats and getting back into the flow of playing baseball. There's the normal progression."
Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson is closing in on a rehab stint with Louisville on Monday to test his fractured right thumb.
"I think it came quicker than we expected," Stephenson said Friday of the healing. "Hit off the machine and felt good. Some stiffness early but has loosened up a lot since then."
--Field Level Media