The Cincinnati Reds have a lot to prove against the Atlanta Braves

CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 24: Billy Hamilton #6 of the Cincinnati Reds slides into home to score a run during the seventh inning of the game against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on June 24, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Chicago 8-6. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 24: Billy Hamilton #6 of the Cincinnati Reds slides into home to score a run during the seventh inning of the game against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on June 24, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Chicago 8-6. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /
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Most pundits, experts, and fans have been down on the Cincinnati Reds all year. But, a solid showing against the Atlanta Braves could really change the perception of the team.

The Cincinnati Reds have not played well for the majority of this season. They’re 32-45 on the season and 13 games out of first place in the NL Central. However, the upcoming series against the Atlanta Braves could be very telling going forward.

The Reds started the season 3-15 before firing manager Bryan Price. Since taking over as interim manager, Jim Riggleman has helped guide the Reds to a 29-30 record. Cincinnati has won 8 of their last 10 games, including 7 straight.

The Reds just completed a 4-game series of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs had the highest run differential in the NL coming into the series and the Reds held them to 3.25 runs per game. Meanwhile, Cincinnati racked up 7.75 runs per game against Chicago, including two grand slams and two pinch-hit homers.

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The Cincinnati Reds team that fans are seeing over the last month or so is the team that Reds fans expected to see when the season started. The Reds are 12-8 in the month of June and now they’re headed to Atlanta to take on the upstart Braves who lead the NL East.

Atlanta is 44-32 on the season and 22-15 at home. The Reds also happened to catch the Braves when their three best pitchers are scheduled to start. Mike Foltynewicz, Anibal Sanchez, and Sean Newcomb will take the hill on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, respectively when the Redlegs visit SunTrust Park in Atlanta. Those three pitchers have a combined 2.43 ERA in 36 starts.

A pair of veterans has been key for the Braves this season as well. Catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Nick Markakis have helped lead Atlanta to the top spot in the National League East.

Suzuki is on pace to have similar numbers to last year’s stellar season, and Markakis has the same number of home runs (8) at this point in the season as he did all of last year.

Atlanta was not expected to be competing with the elite clubs in the NL this season. After going 72-90 last season, the Braves were expected to still be behind the Nationals and even the Mets. In all honesty, the way the Braves have played this season could be the benchmark for Cincinnati in 2019.

Next: This is the Reds team we expected to see

If the Reds are able to scratch out one victory over the next three days, that’s not a bad showing. If Cincinnati is able to win the series over Atlanta, that would be newsworthy. Now, if the Redlegs sweep the Braves on the road, Reds fans may have to readjust their expectations for the season yet again.