Get them off the road, and the Braves like their chances against any team. Then add a Chipper Jones jersey-retirement ceremony, a sellout crowd, and, most important, an exemplary outing by rookie Julio Teheran.
That mix was effective in a 3-0 win against the Diamondbacks in a series opener Friday night before 48,282 at Turner Field, where Teheran struck out 10 in six scoreless innings and the Braves improved their majors-best home record to 26-11.
“It’s nice to play in front of the big crowd,” said Andrelton Simmons, who hit his sixth homer for the Braves, a sixth-inning leadoff shot against former Braves prospect Randall Delgado. “(Teheran) is starting to do what he’s been doing in the minor leagues for a couple of years back. It’s nice to see that.”
The National League East leaders have won 18 of their past 24 home games — and lost 15 of their past 23 on the road.
Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton had two hits apiece against Delgado (0-2), who lost his first game against Atlanta since being traded in January. The Braves shipped him, Martin Prado and minor leaguers to Arizona for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson.
“It was a good overall night, on a very memorable night with Chipper’s number getting retired,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves stayed 5-1/2 games ahead of Washington before the season’s halfway point Saturday. “We played good baseball, ran the bases well, executed some things offensively. Hope it carries on the rest of the weekend.”
Dan Uggla added two hits, including an eighth-inning triple, after which he scored on a safety squeeze by Reed Johnson.
“I’ve got wheels, man,” Uggla joked. “I was confident in Reed getting it down and I was confident in myself being able to get home.”
Delgado pitched well — six innings, eight hits, two runs — but his pal Teheran (6-4) was a cut above. Teheran allowed four hits and one walk and struck out the side in the sixth to give him his second double-digit strikeout game this month.
“I was excited to pitch against one of my best friends, and to pitch on Chipper Jones’ day,” Teheran said, smiling. “I was getting more confidence (as the game progressed). The first three innings were a little difficult. I was sweating a lot. But at the end, the last inning, I was trying to get 10 K’s – Chipper Jones’ number.”
The Braves’ big three relievers — Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel — shut out the D-backs on no hits the rest of the way, with Kimbrel notching his 23rd save by inducing a game-ending double-play grounder after a walk.
“We were confident as soon as we scored the first run, but it’s nice to get a couple of more runs in,” Simmons said.
Teheran took a no-hitter to the eighth against Pittsburgh on June 5. The 22-year-old Colombian finished that game with 11 strikeouts, one walk and one hit allowed in eight scoreless innings, and he pitched six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and no walks in a June 16 win against San Francisco.
“I think you’re seeing a young man that just keeps maturing every start he gets in the big leagues,” Gonzalez said.
Teheran has a 2.27 ERA and 10 quality starts in his past 12 games. He’s 6-4 in that span: The Braves scored one or no runs while he was in the game in each of the four losses, and two runs while he was in during each of the no-decisions.
“He’s been great, man,” Uggla said. ” I think he’s learning from each start, not just going, ‘Oh, yeah, I dominated that game.’ I think he’s really studying and looking at what he did right and what he did wrong, and he’s making huge strides.”
A week ago at Milwaukee, Teheran allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings, and the Braves were shut out 2-0 to begin a 2-3 trip. It was a similar story May 14 at Arizona, when he allowed two runs in six innings of a 2-0 loss.
This time against the Diamondbacks, he was staked to a 1-0 lead before Delgado recorded two outs. Heyward lined a double to the left-center warning track with one out in the first and scored on Justin Upton’s single.
That was the only scoring until Simmons led off the fifth with his sixth homer. Delgado threw a change-up that Simmons took for a first-pitch strike. He threw him another change-up, and Simmons drove it to the left-field seats.
“From playing behind him, I know his stuff a little bit,” Simmons said. “He fooled me the first time with the changeup, but the second time I was kind of ready for it.”
The Braves haven’t had many big-strikeout starting pitchers in recent years, but recently Teheran has shown the potential to perhaps become one. He has 51 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings over his past seven starts and got strikeouts when he needed them most in the early innings Friday.
“I’m feeling like every time I get somebody with two strikes, I can make one pitch and get a strikeout,” he said. “If I don’t strike him out, just get an out. I’ve got more confidence in all my pitches, so I feel like I can throw them any time.”
After Aaron Hill’s one-out double in the first inning, Teheran got consecutive strikeouts against Paul Goldschmidt — one of the league’s top hitters — and Miguel Montero. And after Didi Gregorius singled to start the third and advanced on a sacrifice, Teheran struck out Gerardo Parra before an inning-ending ground out.
“He made some nice pitches when he had to,” Gonzalez said. “He gave us a great opportunity to win tonight’s game.”