Reds arrive, ATL dog days officially underway

 

The powerful Cubs and their merry band(wagon) of fans have left town and the Reds have arrived for a four-game mid-week series between two last-place teams at our decrepit (sarcasm font) 20-year-old ballpark.

It was a blistering hot day Sunday when the Braves got pounded 13-2 by the Cubs. Tempers flared after  a questionable call or two. (Getty Images photo)

It was a blistering hot day Sunday when the Braves got pounded 13-2 by the Cubs. Tempers flared after a questionable call or two. (John Amis/AP photo)

Welcome to the 90-plus-degree dog days of summer in the Deep South, and to the dog days of a baseball season shaping up as the worst in more than a quarter century around these parts.

And tonight’s series-opening pitching matchup features two rookies, Aaron Blair and the Reds’ Daniel Wright, with a combined total of 11 major league games pitched including nine starts, eight of those by Blair. The two pitchers are a combined 0-6 with a 7.15 ERA. (More in a moment on that matchup and what it says about the jump from minors to majors.)

If you’re thinking the Braves have a good chance to not just improve their majors-worst 18-44 record by winning and perhaps even sweeping the lowly Reds, well, it might not be as easy as you think. The Reds are 24-39 and almost as many games out of first place (20) in the Central as are the Braves (20 ½) in the East.

However, the two teams have been headed in opposite directions of late.

During an 11-game losing streak through May 27, the Reds hit .187 with just 31 runs while posting a 7.13 ERA. But in 15 games since, they’re 9-6 with a .290 batting average, 87 runs (27 homers) and a 5.35 ERA. That includes series wins at Colorado and at home against the Nationals and Athletics. \

Their only series loss in that stretch was at home against the Cardinals, when the Reds scored 16 runs while dropping two of three.

The Braves, after going 7-8 with a 3.72 ERA and 11 homers in Brian Snitker’s first 15 games as interim manager, are 2-8 with a 6.33 ERA and three homers in the past 10 games. That includes eight homerless games and six games with two or fewer runs scored. They allowed six or more runs in half of those 10 games.

For the month of June, the Reds have hit .282 with 18 homers and a .499 slugging percentage — the most homers in the NL, along with the third-best average and second-best slugging percentage. They are 7-4 with a 4.00 ERA for the month, while the Braves are 3-8 with a league-worst 5.89 ERA for the month.

The Braves are also last in the league in homers (four) and runs (31) for the month of June. Last in ERA and last in scoring — but they still managed to win three games including one apiece against division leaders San Francisco and Los Angeles.

By the way, the Braves’ extra-base hits leader in June is Ender Inciarte, whose five XBH include three triples. He also leads the team with six runs scored this month, while Chase d’Arnaud leads the Braves in hits with 14 in 11 June games, and Nick Markakis has a team-high five RBIs in 10 June games.

Inciarte is 10-for-25 (.400) with two doubles, two triples, five runs and three RBIs in a six-game hitting streak.

• Reds play long ball: The Reds have hit 51 homers at home and 25 on the road, which dwarfs the disparity in home/road homers for all other NL teams including the Rockies, who’ve hit almost as many homers on the road (39 in 34 games) at the hitters’ heaven that is Coors Field (41 in 29 games).

The Phillies have actually hit more homers on the road (30 homers in 31 games) than at their hitter-friendly home park (25 homers in 32 games).

The Braves, by the way, have hit 12 homers in 32 home games and 13 homers in 30 road games. The next-lowest homer total at home in the NL is the Giants’ 20 (they’ve hit 34 on the road), and the league’s next-lowest road homer total is the Brewers’ 25.

• Feels like the right time (again) to close with one of my all-time favorites from Elvis Costello, written by his pal Nick Lowe.

“WHAT’S SO FUNNY ‘BOUT) PEACE, LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING” by Elvis Costello

As I walk on through this wicked world,
Elvis Costell's Armed Forces album.

Elvis Costello’s Armed Forces album.

Searching for light in the darkness of insanity,
I ask myself, Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain, and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,
There’s one thing I wanna know,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

And as I walked on through troubled times,
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes,
So where are the strong?,
And who are the trusted?,
And where is the harmony?,
Sweet harmony

‘Cause each time I feel it slipping away, just makes me wanna cry,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

So where are the strong?,
And who are the trusted?,
And where is the harmony?,
Sweet harmony

‘Cause each time I feel it slipping away, just makes me wanna cry,
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?
What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?


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