ATLANTA — It had been nearly a year since Alex Wood pitched into the seventh inning, and the oft-injured starter was feeling better than he has all season.
“That felt like me tonight,” Wood said. “I was happy to throw well against a really good ballclub. They’re tough to plan for and so I attacked and got ahead early. I got some good quick innings there in the first, second and third.”
Wood (1-0) was sharp in his second start since returning from a season-long back injury, allowing five baserunners and solo homers to Austin Riley in the fifth and Ronald Acuna Jr. in the sixth. Wood, who hadn’t pitched into the seventh since last Aug. 29 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, struck out five.
“It’s a chess match — it’s my favorite part of starting,” Wood said. “You game plan for these guys and then you make adjustments during the game and how you see their approach. I felt really excited about tonight.”
Atlanta starter Kevin Gausman struggled in his second straight start, giving up five runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. Gausman, whose ERA rose 22 points to 6.19, has allowed 11 runs and 17 hits in his last two outings, a span of 10 2/3 innings.
“I’m not having the year that anybody thought I would and I’m not in the situation I want to be right now, but I’m going to get the ball again in five days so I’ll stay focused,” Gausman said. “Two starts ago I was pretty good. Can’t hold my head too much.”
The Reds went up 2-0 in the first when Jesse Winker singled and Votto pulled his 11th homer into the seats in right field. Votto helped make it 3-0 in the third, singling to right, advancing from first to third on Eugenio Suarez‘s single and scoring on a grounder.
Cincinnati took a 5-0 lead in the fourth when it successfully challenged to overturn a call that Jose Peraza was out at the plate on a fielder’s choice and Votto had a sacrifice fly.
Votto is still trying to turn his season around after struggling so much early on. He’s not choking up as much on the bat and is hitting .310 in his last 56 games.
“At some point, I feel like I had to make an adjustmsent,” Votto said. “I got a little tired of my best swings getting caught on the track, so I made an adjustment. It’s encouraging.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker said SS Dansby Swanson, on the injured list with a right foot contusion, will not be able to return Saturday as originally hoped. Swanson felt pain as he ran the bases and might not be back until next week.
Votto’s homer was the Reds’ 32nd in the first inning, most in the majors. Cincinnati improved to 27-8 when leading after the first. … Acuna’s 26th long ball had an exit velocity of 115.5 mph and sailed 463 feet. … The loss kept NL East-leading Atlanta, which snapped a three-game winning streak, from moving 21 games over .500 for the second time this season.
RHP Chris Martin, acquired in a trade with Texas earlier this week, made his Atlanta debut in the eighth and faced the minimum. The Braves’ other two bullpen acquisitions, RHP Shane Greene, the team’s new closer, and RHP Mark Melancon are still waiting to pitch for Atlanta.
Atlanta announced that LHP Luiz Gohara was designated for assignment earlier this week. Gohara began spring training two years ago in strong consideration for a spot in the rotation, but he’s been injured much of the time and did not pitch in the minors this year.
Reds: RHP Trevor Bauer (9-8, 3.79 ERA) makes his Cincinnati debut four days after arriving in a trade with Cleveland. Bauer went 3-2 with a 4.54 ERA in six starts last month.
Braves: LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-4, 3.86 ERA) will face the Reds for the second time in his career. Keuchel went 2/3 with a 3.52 ERA in six starts last month.