CINCINNATI — Aaron Harang figures he's covered first base thousands of times in his career.
The one time he didn't sent the Atlanta Braves to a 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
Cincinnati had runners on first and second with one out in the fourth inning of a scoreless tie when Jay Bruce hit a chopper up the line to first baseman Freddie Freeman. Harang started to come off the mound, then stopped as he thought the ball was going foul. Bruce was safe, opening the door for a three-run inning.
"Something as small as covering first base, which I've done thousands of times in my career," Harang said. "The one time I don't do it, the inning unravels. If I cover first, the next guy flies out to right field and the inning's over."
Alfredo Simon pitched seven strong innings to earn his first win in eight starts since the All-Star break and Todd Frazier homered as the Reds held on to salvage a split of the four-game series after losing the first two games.
Simon (13-8) opened with six shutout innings before yielding a run in the seventh. He allowed five hits with one walk and six strikeouts over seven innings.
Evan Gattis led off the ninth with his 20th homer and Jonathan Broxton gave up Jason Heyward's RBI single before coaxing Justin Upton into grounding into a base-loaded forceout to end the game. That left Atlanta 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position in the game and a combined 3-for-22 while scoring a total of six runs over the last three games, which didn't concern manager Fredi Gonzalez.
"What were we before that?" he wondered. "When you're not scoring runs, you're going to get that."
The Braves hadn't lost two straight games since Aug. 11-12 against the Dodgers.
The Reds strung together five hits in their three-run fourth. After Ryan Ludwick came up with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly, Brayan Pena and Zack Cozart added RBI singles while sending Harang to his first loss in four career starts against his former team.
Harang (10-8), who's lost two his last three starts, left with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth. He allowed eight hits and four runs with two walks and five strikeouts.
Cozart beat out a potential double-play ball to allow Jay Bruce to score from third for a 4-0 lead.
The Braves avoided a shutout on back-to-back one-out doubles by Gattis and Tommy La Stella in the seventh. Frazier got that back with a 419-foot solo homer off of David Hale in the bottom of the inning.
Jason Heyward extended his hitting streak to six games, the team's longest since Justin Upton's 13-game streak was stopped on Saturday.
Gattis's home run in the ninth bounced off the top of the wall.
SHAKING IT OFF
Bruce's infield single to load the bases in the fourth snapped a 0-for-13 slump. Pena was hitless in his last 16 at bats before his run-scoring single.
Jumbo Diaz stranded runners on first and third in the eighth inning. Diaz has stranded 12 of his 13 inherited baserunners this season.
Braves: After Atlanta's day off on Monday, LHP Alex Wood makes his second start of the season against the Mets in the opener of a three-game series at New York.
Reds: After Cincinnati's day off on Monday, RHP Johnny Cueto starts against the Cubs on Tuesday trying to get back on track after seeing a personal seven-game winning streak snapped at St. Louis on Wednesday.
Braves: SS Andrelton Simmons got Sunday off as Gonzalez kept Saturday's promise to give a regular the day off, which will mean two days of rest for Simmons with Monday's break in the schedule.
Reds: RHP Homer Bailey, on the disabled list since Aug. 16 with a strained right forearm, has increased his exercise program, but he has not resumed throwing, manager Bryan Price said.