Venters takes loss as Reds beat Braves, 3-1
By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) Jonny Venters, one of baseball's top setup relief pitchers in 2011, has hit a rough spot this season.
Venters gave up two runs in the eighth inning, including Brandon Phillips' double that drove in the go-ahead run and helped the Cincinnati Reds beat the Atlanta Braves 3-1 on Monday night.
Venters (2-2) has a blown save and a loss in his last three appearances.
"My arm feels good," Venters said. "I'm not making the pitches.
"I'm making a lot of non-competitive pitches. Pitches that guys aren't even thinking about offering at. And then making even worse pitches over the plate and they're hitting the ball hard."
Venters had six wins, five saves and a 1.85 ERA as a rookie. After giving up two runs in one inning, his ERA is 3.29 this season.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he's confident the left-hander will return to form.
"We'll keep running him out there," Gonzalez said. "It's unfortunate that it happened with Jonny in the eighth inning, but it doesn't worry me. He'll be just fine."
The game was tied 1-1 when Drew Stubbs led off the eighth with an infield hit between the pitcher's mound and third base. Stubbs moved to second base on a wild pitch from Venters. With one out, Phillips drove in Stubbs with the double.
"To tell you the truth, I'm just happy I hit the ball out of the infield," said Phillips, who laughed when asked what pitch Venters threw.
"To tell you the truth, I told everybody I didn't know," Phillips said. "I think it was a slider. I think he hung a slider down the middle.
"I was just trying to find something to drive and stay down the middle because I'd been getting jammed all day. I just said I've got to get the head (of the bat) out some kind of way. He left one right there and I just took advantage of it."
Venters confirmed it was a slider.
Chris Heisey added another double, his third hit of the game, to drive in Phillips.
"That was a big hit Heisey got to make it 3-1 instead of 2-1," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "That was huge."
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman left the game after the seventh inning with blurred vision in his right eye. He left Turner Field to be examined by Dr. Alan Kozarsky, the team's eye specialist.
The Braves began the night in sole possession of first place in the NL East for the first time this season.
Logan Ondrusek (3-0) gave up one hit and one walk while recording two outs. Reds starter Homer Bailey allowed six hits and one run in 6 2-3 innings. Ondrusek has not allowed a run in 17 appearances this season.
Atlanta's Randall Delgado allowed one unearned run on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings. He has three losses and two no-decisions since winning his first two starts.
The Reds scored the first run of the game on an unusual error in the fourth. Back-to-back singles by Jay Bruce and Heisey left runners on first and second with two outs when Todd Frazier hit a grounder to rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky.
Heisey was running from first on the play, so second baseman Dan Uggla did not cover second base, apparently thinking there was no chance for a play at the bag. Pastornicky fielded the ball and instead of throwing to first made a quick pitch toward second base. Bruce scored the unearned run from second on Pastornicky's throwing error.
"All I can do is make sure it doesn't happen again," Pastornicky said.
The Braves tied the game in the fifth. With one out, Michael Bourn tripled into the right-field corner. Martin Prado followed with a fly ball to shallow right field. Bourn tagged and scored when catcher Devin Mesoraco couldn't handle Jay Bruce's throw from right field.
One day after having four hits, including three homers, Votto was 0-for-2 with two walks.
Notes: Delgado walked Votto on four pitches in the first inning after striking out Zack Cozart and Stubbs. Votto led off the sixth with another free pass. His 33 walks lead the major leagues. ... Prado was turned the wrong way when tracking Bruce's line drive in front of the left-field wall in the sixth but recovered at the last second to make a lunging catch. ... The two-game series ends on Tuesday night when Reds' right-hander Johnny Cueto (4-0) faces Tim Hudson (1-1). Hudson is 3-1 in six career starts against the Reds.
Updated May 14, 2012