Monday's series opener with the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark couldn't have gone any better for the Atlanta Braves. They rode a solid start by Paul Maholm and two home runs by Andrelton Simmons to a 7-4 win.
Simmons went 3-for-4 with two homers and a career-best four RBIs in the Braves' first win at Great American Ballpark since 2011 and his first career multi-homer game.
"I felt good at the plate," Simmons said on braves.com. "I got a couple pitches over the plate. Thanks to my teammates, though. They gave me a good scouting report before I had to face anybody. They made it easier."
The Braves got started by scoring a single run in four out of the five innings Bronson Arroyo pitched, beginning with a Freddie Freeman RBI-single in the first. Simmons started the second with a lead-off home run before backing up a lead-off triple by Dan Uggla in the fourth with an RBI-single. Evan Gattis doubled home Justin Upton from first in the fifth.
"That was definitely a battle," Arroyo said. "Top to bottom, that's a really powerful lineup. A lot of threats are in there. You have to be a little more nitpicky. I wound up getting guys on base early in almost every inning. When you do that, it forces you to throw more pitches, especially against a lineup as deep as these guys. The only guy I really didn't know in the lineup and wasn't worried about hitting the ball out of the ballpark was [Simmons], and he ended up taking me deep."
Maholm kept up his trend of solid starts by giving up two runs over 5 2/3 innings. He only gave up one hit through the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth, when the first three batters reached, resulting in Brandon Phillips and his RBI-double putting the Reds on the board before Jay Bruce drove in a run on a groundout to put the score at 3-2.
Simmons gave the Braves some additional cushion in the eighth inning when he and Jordan Schafer hit back-to-back homers off Logan Ondrusek. They would need that when Jordan Walden gave up two runs in the bottom of the frame without recording an out.
Craig Kimbrel also made things interesting in his save by giving up one-out singles to Donald Lutz and Shin-Soo Choo to bring up Joey Votto with two outs, but Kimbrel struck him out swinging to end the game.
"The regular fan tomorrow is going to get up and read the paper and go, 'The Braves won by three, Kimbrel got the save and Simmons hit a few homers,'" Gonzalez said. "But we got into some serious trouble. When you're facing Votto in the ninth in this ballpark with two people on and a two-run lead, it's hard. But we did well. We kept adding on and adding on, and you've got to do that because they have a history in this ballpark of coming back."
Brian McCann went 0-for-4 with a walk in his first game of the season after spending the first month on the disabled list.
The win snapped the Braves' six-game losing streak at Great American Ballpark.
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