The red-hot Atlanta Braves look to finish their six-game road trip with a flourish when they visit the slumping Cincinnati Reds in the finale of the three-game weekend series on Sunday.
While the Braves look for a 5-1 finish to their road trip, the Reds are trying to avoid their 11th straight home loss. Cincinnati has dropped 10 straight at home, its longest skid since 1986.
The Braves will send Charlie Morton (4-3, 4.73 ERA) to the mound for his 16th start of the season. He's coming off a no-decision on Tuesday in Philadelphia when he allowed two runs on seven hits while walking four and striking out five over 5 2/3 innings.
Morton is making his second start of the season against Cincinnati. The 38-year-old right-hander earned the win in Atlanta's first victory of the season, 7-6, on April 8, allowing two runs on just two hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Morton is 7-8 with a 4.36 ERA lifetime against Cincinnati in 19 starts. His 20th start against the Reds will match his total against the Miami Marlins for most in his career.
The Reds counter with ace Luis Castillo (3-4, 3.32), making his 11th start of the season. Castillo is making his fifth career start -- first this season -- against Atlanta, going 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in his previous four. Castillo has tossed 13 scoreless innings covering his last two starts against the Braves, allowing 14 hits while striking out eight.
In his last outing on Tuesday, a 5-3 road win over the Chicago Cubs, the right-hander threw a career-high 123 pitches in six shutout innings, striking out 11, walking three and allowing five hits.
In his last eight starts, Castillo is 3-3 with a 2.85 ERA, including all six of his quality starts this season.
One of the key batters in the lineup powering Atlanta's five-week surge is Dansby Swanson.
Swanson, who is batting .341 over his last 31 games, followed up his 4-for-5, three-RBI performance Friday with three more hits Saturday.
"Just kind of got in tune with myself," Swanson said. "It just felt like in Philly, I just missed a lot of balls, and the ones that I did hit hard got caught. That's the nature of the game. You've just got to continue to move forward and take it a day at a time."
Cincinnati's bullpen received more bad news on Saturday when it was announced that right-hander Lucas Sims is scheduled to undergo back surgery to repair a herniated disc next week and will miss the rest of the season.
Sims, a cog in Cincinnati's late-inning relief corps in 2021, was held back in spring training by back issues and forced to begin the season on the injured list. The surgery will address a bulging disk, discovered in an exam after being placed on the IL on May 12.
"We tried our best to get back out there, and it just didn't respond the way we wanted it to," said Sims, who has a 9.45 ERA in only six games this season. "Ultimately, this procedure will put me in a better place and put it behind me."
Cincinnati's bullpen is ranked last in the majors with a 5.67 ERA and is second with 45 homers allowed and 145 walks.
--Field Level Media