published Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Reds smack Braves

CINCINNATI — Edgar Renteria wasn’t feeling good on a hot afternoon, hoping he could just stay in the background while his stomach recovered from whatever was bothering it.

No such luck.

Renteria replaced injured rookie shortstop Zack Cozart in the fourth inning on Saturday and wound up playing a pivotal role. He drove in three runs, rallying the Cincinnati Reds to an 11-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Cozart hyperextended his left elbow while trying to make a tag, getting Renteria off the bench. His two-run double off Derek Lowe (6-8) started a three-run rally in the sixth inning that put the Reds ahead.

“You don’t want to come in like that,” Renteria said. “You don’t want guys to get hurt, but I’m glad I was ready when they called me. I didn’t feel good, but I had to play.”

Manager Dusty Baker didn’t have any other option other than Renteria, who has struggled all season. The former World Series MVP had only 14 RBIs coming into the game.

“Fortunately, Edgar was able to come in and give us three big RBIs,” Baker said. “He was sick, too. Hopefully, he’s feeling better tomorrow. He really came through big-time when we needed it. He’s going to play a big role down the stretch.”

Brandon Phillips had a pair of run-scoring doubles, and Todd Frazier doubled with the bases loaded as Cincinnati pulled away.

Homer Bailey (5-4) threw 53 pitches in the first two innings, but made it through six on a 92-degree afternoon. Lowe’s bases-loaded double drove in a pair in the second.

“That was a gutty performance,” Baker said. “He was in trouble from the beginning. He wasn’t getting any first-pitch strikes. They were beating him to death, but it was only 2-1.

“That was pure guts out there. That was the difference. The guy’s a battler, a fighter, and that’s half of the game and a whole lot of pitching. He battled himself into a win.”

It was Cincinnati’s highest-scoring game since an 11-2 win over Pittsburgh on April 16. The Reds scored seven runs in the seventh, matching their season high. It was the most runs off Atlanta’s staff in an inning this season.

The Reds remain stuck in their win-one, lose-one pattern. They haven’t won consecutive games since June 14-15.

Cozart hurt his left elbow while trying to catch the ball and tag out the sliding Nate McLouth. Cozart lost his glove and fell to the ground, grabbing his left elbow. He covered his face with his right hand, fighting back pain, while a trainer examined the elbow.

X-rays were negative. There was no word on how long he’d be out. Cozart was called up on July 7 and gave the Reds a boost at a troublesome position, hitting safely in his first seven games.

“That’s unfortunate, especially for a young guy who was playing well,” Baker said.

Lowe took a 2-1 lead into the sixth but couldn’t get another out. Jay Bruce, out of the lineup with an inner-ear problem, had a pinch-hit double, starting Cincinnati’s comeback. The Reds cobbled together five consecutive hits for a 4-2 lead, knocking Lowe from the game.

Renteria singled home another run off Scott Proctor in the seventh, when Cincinnati sent 11 batters to the plate. Frazier’s three-run double made it 11-2.

Bailey routinely fell behind in the count, setting himself up for a tough time. Atlanta couldn’t take full advantage, stranding eight runners during his six innings.

“That’s part of the game,” Bailey said. “You have to learn how to pitch with guys on base. I got a lot of practice on that today.”

Jason Heyward was thrown out at the plate while trying to score from second base on Freddie Freeman’s single in the first inning. Atlanta loaded the bases with one out in the second, and Lowe doubled for a 2-1 lead. Lowe leads the Braves’ pitching staff with eight hits and six RBIs.

Atlanta left the bases loaded in the inning when Brian McCann flied out to the warning track in center.

Braves second baseman Dan Uggla ran before the game, testing the sore left calf that kept him out of the lineup the two previous games. He was back in the lineup on Saturday and singled in his first at-bat, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games.

The crowd of 41,192 gave the Reds their 11th sellout, matching the record for a season at Great American Ball Park.

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