De La Cruz hits for cycle, powers Reds past Braves in wild Friday night slugfest

Atlanta Braves v Cincinnati Reds
Atlanta Braves v Cincinnati Reds / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Atlanta Braves did what they normally do: hit the ball hard and hit the ball far. Five home runs for Atlanta tonight, two of them going over 400 feet.

One more home run from the Braves would've helped in overcoming one of the best performances of the 2023 season from Reds rookie Elly De La Cruz.

The 21-year-old Reds rookie sensation hit for the cycle in just his 15th career game, ending the night 4-5 with four RBIs in a wild 11-10 win for Cincinnati. In 61 career at-bats, his OPS sits above 1.000, while hitting an obscene .390 against right-handers. It's all small sample sizes at this point, but the 6-5 infielder left his mark on MLB history as the youngest MLB player to hit for the cycle in 51 years.

Friday night's game started as most Braves games had during this current win streak, with Atlanta scoring some first-inning runs to jump out to an early lead. Three straight singles put the Braves up 1-0, before Travis d'Arnaud hit his fifth home run of 2023 to push the lead to 4-0 in the first. Orlando Arcia capped off the inning with an RBI double to end the opening frame at 5-0 Atlanta.

After going down 1-2-3 in the first inning, the Reds tagged AJ Smith-Shawver for five runs over the next three innings. Jake Fraley hit a 387-foot homer to right center to open the scoring for Cincinnati in the 2nd inning. One inning later, De La Cruz hit a two-run homer of his own to trim the Braves lead to 5-4. In the next inning, Joey Votto tied the game with a 428-foot blast to center. Smith-Shawver would be replaced by Collin McHugh a few batters later.

The Braves took the lead back in the 5th after Matt Olson sent a ball 359 feet down the line in left for his 22nd home run of the year. A two-run shot that made it 7-5, and put Atlanta back in the driver's seat for approximately 10 whole minutes.

McHugh went back on the hill to start the fifth, promptly hitting Matt McLain and Jonathan India to put runners on first and second. De La Cruz dropped his third hit of the night, a single, into single to score McLain and put the Reds back within one. Votto pushed Cincinnati ahead for good with his second home run of the night, a three-run, 415-foot blast to make it 9-7 Reds. It was Votto's first multi-home run game since August of 2021 when he hit two against the Braves.

The Reds padded their lead in the sixth after an India RBI single and a De La Cruz RBI triple that would give him the first cycle for a Cincinnati Reds player since Eric Davis did it in 1989.

After a scoreless seventh, the Braves proceeded to storm back within reach with a monster eighth inning. Ronald Acuña Jr. hit his 16th home run of 2023 to trim the deficit to three. Two batters later, Austin Riley hit a 458-foot tank to almost dead center, followed by Olson hitting his second home run of the night to make it 11-10 Reds.

Joe Jiménez threw a scoreless ninth for Atlanta to give the Braves a shot at tying the game. d'Arnaud led things off by swinging at the first pitch from Alexis Diaz and popping out to first base. The tying run did reach base after Eddie Rosario drew a walk (twice tonight!), but the runner was quickly erased after Arcia swung at the first pitch and grounded into a game-ending double play.

The Braves eight-game win streak comes to an end, while the Reds have now won 12 games in a row.

Atlanta will have a chance to climb back into the win column on Saturday afternoon with the second game of the series. Jared Shuster gets the ball for the Braves with Graham Ashcraft starting opposite him for Cincinnati. The first pitch from Great American Ball Park will be at 4:10 p.m. EST.