Homer Bailey pitched into the seventh inning and Brandon Phillips delivered a tiebreaking double in the eighth as the Reds defeated the Braves, 3-1, at Turner Field to move within 1 1/2 games of the Cardinals in the National League Central and knock Atlanta out of first place in the NL East.
Phillips' double drove in Drew Stubbs, who had led off the inning with a bunt single against reliever Jonny Venters.
"He a nasty pitcher," Phillips said. "But he hung a slider, and I took advantage of it."
Asked what kind of history he had with Venters, Phillips was blunt.
"Not good," he said.
But Phillips, who had been 0-for-4 against Venters, came through this time and scored an insurance run when Chris Heisey, who had three hits, delivered a two-out double.
"That was a big hit that Heisey got," said Baker, who has been in need for more production from his left fielders. "I've been looking for that [from him] for a while."
Handed a lead, the Reds' bullpen came through once again. But it wasn't easy.
Aroldis Chapman came in with two on and one out in the eighth inning and had to work through some of the Braves' best hitters.
"Those were tough guys he faced," Baker said.
The hard-throwing left-hander walked Chipper Jones to load the bases after getting Brian McCann on a fly to right field. But he came back to strike out Jason Heyward on a 90-mph slider one pitch after a 101-mph fastball.
Chapman hasn't allowed a run in 18 1/3 innings over 14 appearances.
Bailey, who didn't make it out of the fourth inning in his previous start against the Brewers, worked 6 2/3 innings and allowed one run and six hits. He struck out three and walked two, throwing 114 pitches.
"He threw a heck of a game against a very good left-handed-hitting lineup," Baker said. "It was encouraging."
"Homer pitched a great game," Phillips said.
Bailey insisted that he still wasn't overly pleased with his performance, but he was happy to help get the Reds' seven-game road trip started with a win.
"They're all good teams, so to start this right is good for the team," he said.
The Reds can go for a sweep of the brief series with Johnny Cueto (4-0) pitching Tuesday night against Tim Hudson (1-1). Cueto is second in the National League with a 1.12 ERA.
Cincinnati didn't exactly start the opener itself off right, however, wasting a leadoff double by Jay Bruce in the second inning. But they took the lead on an unearned run in the fourth. Bruce and Heisey had two-out singles off Braves starter Randall Delgado, and the run scored when shortstop Tyler Pastornicky threw wildly to an uncovered second base trying to get a forceout on a grounder by Todd Frazier.
The Braves, who had left five runners on base in the previous three innings against Bailey, tied the game in the fifth. Michael Bourn tripled with one out and used his speed again to score on Martin Prado's short sacrifice fly to right field. Bruce's throw was to the right of home plate, and catcher Devin Mesoraco couldn't handle it.
After left fielder Prado robbed Bruce of an extra-base hit with a diving catch on the warning track in the sixth inning, the Reds couldn't take advantage of a leadoff double by Heisey in the seventh. Mesoraco walked with one out, and Baker kept Bailey, who had already thrown 99 pitches, in the game to lay down a bunt. The sacrifice attempt didn't work, with Heisey thrown out at third base.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez then pulled Delgado, who had thrown 107 pitches, and brought in Chad Durbin. Zack Cozart went after the first pitch and flew out to center field, ending the threat.
Delgado allowed four hits and the unearned run in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three.
Bailey gave up a one-out bunt single by Pastornicky in the seventh and was replaced by Logan Ondrusek after getting pinch-hitter Eric Hinske to hit into a force play. Ondrusek (3-0) got out of the inning when Bourn hit a fly ball to center field.
Baker pinch-hit for Chapman in the ninth, and Reds closer Sean Marshall pitched around a leadoff single by Matt Diaz to record his sixth save.
"The Braves have been playing great," Phillips said. "It's good to come in here and get the first one."
Venters (2-2) was nearly unhittable last season. He hasn't been this year.
"I was leaving pitches up over the plate and falling behind," he said. "I wasn't making pitches when I needed to, and they made me pay for it. I've got to do a better job of going out there and attacking hitters. I didn't do that tonight, and it cost me the game."