By The Sports Xchange
CINCINNATI — Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez hit two-run homers, and Zack Cozart added a solo shot, all in the fourth inning, lifting the Cincinnati Reds to an 8-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the opener of a three-game series Monday night at Great American Ball Park.
The Braves fell to 19-31 all-time at Great American Ball Park while falling for the fifth time in their past six there.
Billy Hamilton, who scored the winning run on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, caused havoc on the base paths again Monday. The Reds center fielder singled three times, stole three bases (giving him 27 thefts on the season) and scored twice.
Votto and Tucker Barnhart each had two hits for Cincinnati.
Reds starter Brandon Finnegan (5-7) allowed only two runs in five-plus innings, but he left after throwing 96 pitches. He struck out five and walked one.
The Braves got three hits from Adonis Garcia and two from Nick Markakis.
Atlanta’s Matt Wisler (4-9) give up five earned runs, all on homers, in five-plus innings. He was charged with six runs on eight hits and two walks, and he fanned three.
Thanks to the three homers, the Reds led 5-1 after four innings.
Atlanta’s offense, which like the Reds’ produced only one run on Sunday, woke up in the sixth when Garcia led off with his sixth homer.
A double and single chased Finnegan from the mound, but the Braves left runners at first and third. Atlanta stranded seven in the game and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Barnhart’s RBI single got a run back in the bottom half of the sixth to push the Reds’ lead back to four, and Atlanta failed to rally against Cincinnati’s improving bullpen.
The game was scoreless until the fourth when Jeff Francoeur’s two-out double drove home Garcia to put Atlanta ahead 1-0.
The lead didn’t last long.
Cozart tied the score 1-1 with his 15th home run of the season, tying a career-high set in 2012, leading off the fourth.
Two batters later, Votto launched a two-run homer to put Cincinnati up 3-1. It also was his 15th homer this season.
With two outs, Suarez, who turned 25 on Monday, crushed Wisler’s 3-2 pitch just inside the left-field foul pole for another two-run homer making the score 5-1. It was his 16th homer.
NOTES: Cincinnati 2B Brandon Phillips returned to the lineup after missing two games with a strained right calf. He went 1-for-3 before leaving for a pinch hitter. … Reds C Devin Mesoraco underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip on Monday. He’s expected to begin catching drills in January. … Braves RHP Shae Williams threw a simulated game Monday. He’s trying to come back from elbow surgery. … Braves OF Mallex Smith, who is on the disabled list with a fractured left thumb, has resumed running despite wearing a cast.