Braves Preview: Atlanta collides with surging Reds for three-game series

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies / Rich Schultz/GettyImages
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The Atlanta Braves eight-game win streak has included two series that went vastly different.

First, the offense went scored-earth against Colorado last weekend, scoring 40 runs over four games in Atlanta.

Then, the Braves pitchers answered the call in a rain-shortened series with the Phillies. Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder put together impressive starts, with Strider striking out nine in his outing, and Elder throwing seven scoreless innings while allowing just three hits.

Atlanta's current, dominant win streak would be the talk of baseball if weren't for the NL Central's new frontrunners: the Cincinnati Reds.

What to watch for in Friday's game

Smith-Shawver road debut

After getting rained out on Wednesday, AJ Smith-Shawver was pushed back two days on the schedule to make his next start.

The 20-year-old right-hander will make his first road start of his major league career on Friday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, a much more friendly park for hitters than Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

Smith-Shawver has gone at least five innings in his first two major league starts for the Braves, and now we'll have to adjust on the fly with a new opponent landing in his lap this week.

Elly explodes on the scene

Since top prospect Elly De La Cruz got the call to the big leagues, the Reds have developed from a fun, scrappy team into frontrunners in the NL Central.

Cincinnati is 12-2 since De La Cruz joined the team, currently riding an 11-game win streak coming into this weekend's series with the Braves. They've already dispatched one World Series contender in that stretch, sweeping the Astros in Houston last weekend.

De La Cruz has an OPS over .900 to start his young career and is hitting .471 during his ongoing five-game hitting streak. He's one of the most dangerous young players Atlanta will have faced so far this year.

Minter's Revival

After a miserable first six weeks of the season, AJ Minter has started to mold back into form at a pivotal time for Atlanta.

The lefty reliever has allowed just one earned run in his last 13 appearances, capping it off on Thursday by striking out the side in the eighth inning to keep the game at a scoreless tie. His ERA and WHIP are dropping lower and lower to 5.00 and 1.00, respectively.

If Minter keeps clawing back, the Atlanta bullpen will have no issues remaining one of the best in baseball heading into the heat of summer.

Braves (48-26) at Reds (40-35)

When: 6:40 p.m. ET
Where: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH
How to Watch: BSSO
How to Listen: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan