CINCINNATI — For the third time in their three-games series, Atlanta outhit the Cincinnati Reds. This time, Tommy Hanson and Nate McLouth made it pay off with a win.
Hanson allowed three hits over six impressive innings and McLouth homered and drove in four runs, sending the Braves to a 7-0 victory over the punchless Reds on Thursday.
One of baseball’s top pitching prospects, Hanson got his first major league hit and RBI. Matt Diaz also homered for the Braves, who snapped a four-game skid and avoided a sweep in Cincinnati.
“Hopefully, I can keep building on this,” Hanson said. “I told myself to slow down after the second inning. (Pitching coach) Roger (McDowell) came out and told me the same thing. I cleared my mind and was able to control my fastball better.”
Hanson (2-0), who made his big league debut with a no-decision against Milwaukee on June 7, walked four and hit a batter with a pitch. But he escaped two jams in his third career start.
“That was the best start Hanson had,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “He got himself in trouble, but he pitched out of it. He threw a lot of pitches early. I didn’t think he was going to make it to the fifth inning, but he settled down and got a lot of first-pitch outs.”
The right-hander loaded the bases in the second on two walks and a hit batter, but wriggled out of trouble by striking out pitcher Matt Maloney and Willy Taveras.
“He was kind of effectively wild,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We had the bases loaded against him, but we didn’t have the right people up — Maloney and Willy, who’s not swinging the bat well.”
The Reds also had runners on first and second with nobody out in the fifth, but Taveras fouled out and Diaz ran down Alex Gonzalez’s bid for an RBI double in the left-center gap. Brandon Phillips flied out to end the threat.
The top six hitters in the Reds’ lineup were a combined 2 for 21, less than 24 hours after their top five batters went 0 for 17 in Cincinnati’s 4-3 win Wednesday night. The Braves also outhit the Reds in each of the first two games of the series, but Baker wasn’t considering shaking up the lineup.
“I don’t think I can shake it up any more than I have been shaking it up,” he said. “I’ve been shaking it up all year long.”
Peter Moylan, Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano each pitched an inning to finish the five-hitter, Atlanta’s fourth shutout this season. The Reds were blanked for the second time.
Maloney (0-2) also was making his third career start, and he’s allowed six hits each time. The left-hander allowed six runs in 5 2-3 innings.
After the start was delayed 36 minutes by rain, the Braves grabbed the lead in the second on Casey Kotchman’s sacrifice fly.
Diaz made it 2-0 with a homer to left in the fourth, his third of the year and first since April 20. The homer came on an 0-2 pitch from Maloney that was supposed to be a fastball away.
“It went in,” Maloney said. “That was bad pitch selection on my part. I’m still learning. It wasn’t that bad of a pitch. It just wasn’t the right pitch.”
McLouth added a two-run shot into the right-field seats in the fifth, his 11th this season and second since being traded by Pittsburgh to Atlanta on June 3.
“It was nice to get some runs,” McLouth said. “When you’re in an extended slump like we were, you start to press. This could help us relax a little. We got a great pitching performance. He’s tough. I can see the ball from my position in center field. He doesn’t throw that hard, but he’s unpredictable.”
The Braves broke it open in a three-run sixth. With two outs, Hanson drove in one run with a bases-loaded single and McLouth blooped a two-run single to right — giving him as many RBIs in one day as he had in his previous 14 June games.
It was the third time this year that McLouth had a home run and four RBIs in a game.