Ronald Acuña Jr. exacted revenge on a pitch near his head with a mammoth home run and rookie Kyle Muller allowed just one hit in five shutout innings in his second major league start as the visiting Atlanta Braves earned a four-game series split with a 4-0 win Sunday over the Cincinnati Reds.
Muller and five relievers held the Reds to two hits while the Braves scored more than three runs for the first time in 10 games, since a 9-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on June 18.
The left-handed Muller (1-1) was called upon to start after Charlie Morton was pushed back to Tuesday to face the Mets.
The Braves broke through in the third against Reds starter Tyler Mahle (7-3) when Acuña doubled home Guillermo Heredia from first. Freddie Freeman followed that with a single to right to score Acuna and put Atlanta up, 2-0.
Muller struck out five of the first seven batters he faced before Scott Heineman’s pop fly fell out of the glove of a charging Acuña in right, with Freeman and second baseman Ozzie Albies quickly converging. The bloop hit was followed by a walk to pitcher Tyler Mahle. But Jonathan India grounded out and Joey Votto struck out to end the threat.
The Braves added to their lead in the fifth when Acuña got his revenge for a pitch up near his face by drilling a Mahle fastball 432 feet to center field moments later, shouting briefly at Mahle as he rounded first base.
Another Braves solo homer made it 4-0 in the sixth when Austin Riley drove one to right-center. Mahle was pulled after six innings, allowing six hits and four runs. In six home starts, Mahle is 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA.
With Muller out of the game, the Reds threatened in the seventh when Luke Jackson walked Eugenio Suarez and A.J. Minter walked pinch-hitter Jesse Winker. But Heineman grounded out to third to end the rally.
For the second time in three days, a Braves center fielder made a running over-the-head catch late to prevent a potential big inning. Ender Inciarte caught Votto’s fly to deep center for the second out of the eighth with a runner on first.