Braves' Newcomb goes from fast start to 11.37 ERA in last 3 starts

There figured to be a market correction at some point. Sean Newcomb simply hoped it wouldn't be this significant.

The pitching-starved Braves were thrilled when Newcomb allowed only five runs (four earned) in 24 1/3 innings over his first four major league starts (ERA: 1.48). But things haven't gone nearly as well since. Newcomb allowed two home runs in a four-run third inning by the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night at SunTrust Park and left the rain-delayed 5-1 loss early in the sixth inning. He threw 110 pitches in only 5 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits, five runs, three walks, a hit batter and home runs by Javier Baez and Willson Contreras.

It could have been worse. But Newcomb got Contreras to hit into a double play with two Cubs on base in the first inning,  pitched out of another jam in the fourth and, after seeing the Chicago load the bases with consecutive singles in the sixth, he struck out pinch hitter John Jay. Then he was lifted for a reliever.

Newcomb built his 1.48 ERA against the Mets, Marlins, Giants and Padres. But in three starts since against the more potent lineups of Houston, Washington and Chicago, he has an ERA of 11.37 (12 2/3 innings, 22 hits, 16 earned runs, 9 walks, 3 homers).

"All three of them have good lineups," Newcomb said. "I need to do a better job of attacking the zone and looking ahead. I didn’t throw a lot of strikes in spots I needed to. I tried to do a little too much with off-speed. … It just didn’t go too great."

He didn't deny being affected by a two-hour, 30-minute rain delay, which led to a 10:05 first pitch. It was the 11th home rain delay of the season and the Braves'14th overall this season (total delay time: 19 hours, 16 minutes).

"Waiting is not the best," Newcomb said. "I was down in the bullpen. I was on the mound for about 10 pitches, and they pulled the tarp. Two other times I started playing catch (and the rain returned). It's hard to get in a groove. But that's the kind of stuff you have to deal with."

Fans shouldn't suddenly assume the worst about Newcomb. He just got here. But his struggles illustrate why the Braves may not be as close to playoff contention as some believe. They don't have the starting pitching to carry them down the stretch, unless they make a trade before the July 31 deadline. The consecutive losses to the Cubs dropped the Braves eight games behind Colorado in the National League wild-card race and they're on the verge of being swept in a home series by the Cubs before heading out on an 11-game trip to Los Angeles, Arizona and Philadelphia.

The trade deadline is July 31. Help is needed.

EARLIER: Braves need to be buyers at deadline -- and for future more than now

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