Monday November 30th, 2015 2:59AM

Hale dominates as Braves shut down Reds 4-1

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA -- David Hale made things difficult on the Reds by facing the minimum 21 batters over his last seven innings.

That performance leaves Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez with a tough decision.

Hale allowed only two hits over eight innings in a performance that may not be enough to save his spot in Atlanta's rotation and the Braves beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-1 on Saturday night.

Hale (1-0) has a 2.31 ERA in four starts but could lose his spot in the rotation next week, when left-hander Mike Minor is expected to come off the disabled list.

Hale, a rookie right-hander, had good command of his sinkerball as he made it difficult for the Braves to send him back to Triple-A Gwinnett.

"I mean, obviously that stuff runs through my head," Hale said of keeping his spot in the rotation. "I try not to let it get too deep in there. My goal is to be here and do the best I can and let things fall the way they will, so we'll see what happens."

Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis each homered off Cincinnati's Mike Leake (2-2).

Hale gave up a walk and two hits, including Ryan Ludwick's run-scoring double, in the first inning. He didn't allow another hit over the next seven innings.

"So he threw a no-hitter after that," Ludwick said.

"He did an outstanding job. What did we have? Two hits? ... Not a whole lot of offense."

Reds manager Bryan Price said Hale "just never really gave us a chance. He pitched really well. It was very impressive."

Cincinnati's only other baserunner against Hale came on Jay Bruce's leadoff walk in the fourth, and the Braves ended that inning with a double play.

Craig Kimbrel closed the combined two-hitter - a season low for the Reds - for his eighth save.

Kimbrel gave up a one-out walk to Joey Votto in the ninth before striking out Brandon Phillips and Bruce to end the game.

Freeman hit a two-run homer in the first inning. Upton and Gattis hit back-to-back homers in the third. Upton, who also hit a homer in the Braves' 5-4 win on Friday night, leads the team with seven.

Ludwick reached over the left-field wall to take another homer away from Freeman in the third inning.

The three homers matched the most allowed in a game by Leake, who gave up four runs and eight hits in seven innings.

Minor was projected as one of the team's top starters even before Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy had season-ending elbow injuries in spring training.

Minor had urinary tract surgery on Dec. 31, which pushed back his spring schedule. He then developed shoulder soreness and was shut down in spring training.

Before the game, Gonzalez brushed off Minor's ugly numbers in what is expected to be his final minor league rehab appearance on Friday night for Double-A Mississippi at Pensacola. Gonzalez said a "howling" wind was a major factor as Minor gave up five runs and 10 hits, including four homers.

Gonzalez said he'll wait until after Minor's next side session to announce any rotation changes for next week. After Hale's dominant performance, Gonzalez wouldn't be drawn into a discussion on how he'll find a spot for Minor.

"Let me enjoy the day, and we'll talk about it in the morning," Gonzalez said.

The Reds held out third baseman Todd Frazier after he left Friday night's game with tightness in his left leg. Price said Frazier probably could have played and likely will miss only one game. Neftali Soto was 0-for-3 in his first career start as Frazier's replacement.

NOTES: The Cincinnati Reds placed C Devin Mesoraco on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. The team recalled C Tucker Barnhart from Triple-A Louisville. ... Leake also allowed three homers against Pittsburgh on July 19, 2013. ... Reds LHP Aroldis Chapman, on the DL with facial fractures after he was hit by a line drive on March 19, threw 43 pitches in batting practice. He is scheduled to throw another simulated game on Tuesday in Cincinnati before beginning a rehab stint in the minors. ... B.J. Upton's infield single in the first was his 1,000th career hit. ... The Braves released Triple-A Gwinnett first baseman Ernesto Mejia after reaching a deal for him to play with Japan's Seibu Lions. ... The series ends Sunday with Atlanta's Julio Teheran facing Johnny Cueto in a matchup of right-handers with ERAs under 2.00.
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