PHOENIX – Although the Braves had won in each of Julio Teheran’s first six starts before Tuesday, they had just one win all season in 13 games when they failed to hit a home run.
Something had to give Tuesday when the Braves and Teheran faced Diamondbacks left-hander Patrick Corbin, who was unbeatn and had given up just two homers all season, none at Chase Field.
Teheran pitched well, but Corbin made key pitches when he had to and kept the ball in the park during a 2-0 Diamondbacks win, evening the series at a game apiece. The Braves need a win in Wednesday’s road-trip finale to salvage a .500 record on the 10-game trek and avoid what would be their first consecutive series losses of the season.
“It seems like he’s effectively wild,” Braves catcher Gerald Laird said of Corbin, who became the first Arizona lefty to start 6-0 since Randy Johnson in 2001. “We had a couple of good swings, but we just didn’t take advantage of opportunities, and it seemed like he got more and more confident as the game went on. When you’re pitching well, things go your way.”
The Braves have lost four of their past five games, and totaled just four runs and one homer in those four losses. They rolled up 10 runs with three homers in their lone win in that span, Monday’s series opener against the Diamondbacks.
Teheran (2-1) was charged with seven hits and two runs in six innings. Both runs scored on Didi Gregorius’ one-out single in the third inning, one batter after a miscommunication by Teheran and first baseman Freddie Freeman allowed a chopped double by Gerardo Parra that put two runners into scoring position.
“It’s just a shame that Julio pitched a pretty good baseball game, and gets a loss on that play there,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves have lost 12 of 19 games and still lead the second-place Nationals by a game in the NL East.
On the biggest play of the game, Teheran ran toward first base as if he were going to try to field the Parra grounder himself, Freeman ran towards the ball, too, and both players jumped out of the way at the last moment to avoid a potential collision.
The ball went between them and bounced past past second baseman Dan Uggla, who was running to cover first base as the ball squirted by him to his right.
“As soon as he hit the ball I was trying to get it,” Teheran said. “But I was thinking that maybe (Freeman) could get the double play, and that’s how we got confused…. It was so difficult. I was trying to get it, but then when I see him next to me, I was like, he might get the guy going to second base.”
Freeman said, “I was going to go and try to spin and throw to second for the force-out there. Then I saw Julio coming and he put his glove up, so we both pulled back at the same time. And that’s the ballgame right there.
“That ball was in no-mans’s land. I mean, Julio could have tried to catch that and run and tag first base. I don’t even know if I was going to be able to get Parra at second base if I’m spinning and throwing. The ball was just perfectly placed.”
Pennington, who had singled to start the inning, advanced to third on the miscommunication play, and Parra raced to second. Gregorius drove in both with a hit to right field for a 2-0 lead.
“He just had that one inning where he got in a little trouble,” Laird said. “He left a pitch over the plate and the guy kind of fisted it out in the outfield. But other than that, I thought he threw the ball great. It seems like he’s gaining more and more confidence with every start. Every time he goes out there, he gives us a chance to win. When you don’t score any runs you’re not going to win many games. But I thought he threw the ball well enough to win the game.”
The rule so far this season, with only one exception, is that the Braves don’t win when they don’t hit a homer. They are not proficient at manufacturing runs, and against Corbin that long-ball-or-bust offense didn’t serve them well.
Corbin issued a season-high five walks in seven innings, including one each of the first four innings. But he gave up just three hits, and Reed Johnson’s one-out double in the first inning was the Braves’ only extra-base hit all night.
After Johnson doubled and Justin Upton walked, Freeman flied out and Gattis lined out to end the inning.
Freeman left five runners on bas, including two more when he struck out to end the third after Johnson’s two-out single and another Upton walk.
After Gattis walked to lead off the fourth inning, Uggla grounded into a double play. And after Upton walked to start the sixth inning, Upton flied out and Freeman lined into an inning-ending double play.
“Yeah, it’s hard to win ballgames scoring zero runs,” Freeman said. “Corbin pitched really well tonight. We hit some balls hard that got caught. We had some opportunities early in the game. Obviously I didn’t come through tonight. Just one of those games.”
Corbin lowered his ERA to 1.52, third in the NL behind Mets sensation Matt Harvey (1.44) and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (1.51), and ahead of Cardinals phenom Shelby Miller (1.58).
Only of only two regular members of a major league rotation who’ve had quality starts in every game this season, none of Corbin’s eight quality starts have been of the minimum-requirement variety. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a game all season, and has pitched seven or more innings in four of his past six starts.