DENVER – Tyler Matzek made his major league debut against the Braves Wednesday night, 10 days after the Rockies left-handed prospect gave up nine hits and nine runs in 4 1/3 innings in a Triple-A game against New Orleans.
If you’ve followed Braves teams of recent vintage, you can probably guess how things went against the young pitcher they had never seen before.
Matzek took a perfect game to the fifth inning and worked a two-hit shutout through seven innings of an 8-2 Rockies rout at Coors Field. Braves ace Julio Teheran gave up a career-high seven runs on 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings as his four-start winning streak ended with a thud.
The Braves trailed 8-0 before scoring two runs in the eighth, when a tiring Matzek gave up three consecutive singles including a run-scoring hit by Andrelton Simmons that broke up the shutout and ended the lefty’s night. The second run charged to Matzek scored on B.J. Upton’s infield hit off reliever Franklin Morales.
Matzek finished with a line of five hits and two runs allowed in seven innings, with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Teheran (6-4) was charged with 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings, the last of the seven runs scoring after slumping reliever David Carpenter replaced Teheran in the seventh. The hits matched a career-high allowed twice previously by Teheran, who gave up three runs in the first inning on four hits including Drew Stubbs’ RBI double and Corey Dickerson’s two-run triple.
In Tuesday’s 13-10 Braves win, Mike Minor allowed eight runs and 11 hits in four innings to match the career-high eight runs he allowed in a 2012 start at Coors Field. Minor and Teheran both pitched splendidly in the Braves’ sweep of“icebowl” doubleheader at Coors Field in April 2012, with the temperature at 23 for the first pitch and 27 for the nightcap.
Teheran allowed eight hits and one run allowed in seven innings of that win. But the Colombian struggled mightily Wednesday, in 63 degrees with unusually high humidity for Denver after a light rain that moved batting practice indoors.
Teheran didn’t walk anyone but hit Josh Rutledge with a pitch that caromed off his left shoulder and knocked off his helmet in the fifth inning. Rutledge stayed in and came around to score on a rundown executed poorly by the Braves on Troy Tulowitzki’s single, pushing the lead to 5-0. Back-to-back doubles by Drew Stubbs and Dickerson in the sixth made it 6-0.
The Braves slipped to 3-3 on a seven-game trip and need a win Thursday to avoid splitting the four-game series. The Rockies had been 1-11 with a 7.17 ERA in their past 12 games, and 1-7 with a 7.97 ERA in their past eight home games.
Matzek, 23, wasn’t ranked among the Rockies’ top-10 prospects and had a 4.05 ERA in 12 starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he gave up 70 hits including eight homers in 66 2/3 innings.
The Braves didn’t have a runner reach base against him until Justin Upton’s one-out single in the fifth inning. Chris Johnson followed with another single, but Tommy La Stella struck out and Andrelton Simmons popped out to end the inning with the Braves trailing 4-0.
They didn’t muster anything else until the eighth inning against the rookie, whose bad outing against New Orleans wasn’t even his worst in Triple-A this season. On May 5 against Memphis, Matzek got whacked for 13 hits and 11 runs (eight earned) in five innings.
Against the Braves, he retired the first 13 batters.
Teheran came in as the major league ERA leader (1.89) among starters, and he was 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his past four starts before facing the Rockies. The winning streak began after his loss at San Francisco when he had problems gripping the ball in the dry air and gave up seven hits and five runs (four earned) in a career-low 3 1/3 innings.
What made the degree of the Braves’ hitting woes surprising was that Matzek was a lefty. While they’ve struggled this season against right-handers, the Braves’ .480 slugging percentage against lefties was the league’s second best before Wednesday, trailing only the Rockies’ .487. They came in ranked fifth in batting average against lefties (.274) and third in OBP (.343).
But again, give them a young pitcher and/or a pitcher they’ve never faced before – even a lefty — and Braves teams of the past several years will, more often than not, make him look good.
Matzek wasn’t even the first choice among Rockies prospects to start Wednesday. Eddie Butler had been scheduled to make his second start but he was disabled with shoulder soreness after his debut last week. Butler is the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect as rated by Baseball America in the spring.
Matzek wasn’t on Rockies’ top-10 list, but looked absolutely elite against the Braves.
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