If the Braves hoped to shake off devastating news of Freddie Freeman’s fractured wrist and keep winning without their big slugger in the lineup, those hopes were quashed early Thursday night when Julio Teheran had another lousy start to continue his string of SunTrust Park stinkers.
He gave up three runs in the first inning and a career-high nine earned runs in three-plus innings of a 9-0 loss to Toronto that snapped the Braves’ streak of three wins against the Blue Jays including two in Canada at the beginning of the week.
“Just one of them games you want to put behind you and just start a new winning streak tomorrow,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s been a tough day. Not a good feeling for all of us when we lose a guy like (Freeman), not only a player but just the person he is and what he brings to our team on the field, how he does it every day, the professionalism.”
Teheran (3-4) left without recording an out in the fourth inning after facing three batters and giving up consecutive homers and a walk, the homers from Nos. 8-9 hitters Luke Maile and pitcher Marcus Stroman.
After a third-inning rain delay and some long, listless innings, perhaps one-fourth of an announced crowd of 25,419 stuck around for the final innings.
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The Braves’ four-time opening day starter has been alarmingly uncompetitive while losing four consecutive starts at SunTrust Park, Teheran allowing eight home runs while posting an ERA of 13.00 in that stretch of home games that’s left him and the Braves searching for answers.
“I felt pretty good today, that’s the only disappointing thing because I felt that’s the best I’ve felt this year,” Teheran said. “I know I had a pretty bad game, but it’s something weird in this game that we don’t understand.”
Teheran’s home/road splits are extraordinary: He is 1-4 with a 10.50 ERA and .337 opponents’ average in five home starts, and 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA and .195 opponents’ average in four road starts. He’s given up eight homers in 18 innings over his past four home starts, and no homers on the road all season.
“I don’t know, it just seems like his command’s off here for some reason,” Snitker said. “Ball’s coming out of his hand pretty good. He had good velocity…. I think he’s been around too long for it to be mental. I don’t know. It’s just one of them things, I believe. Hopefully we’ll get it rectified.”
Said Teheran, “It’s something I don’t know how to explain. Obviously it’s a new stadium, everybody isn’t going to feel the same thing. With me, I don’t feel (anything bad) when I’m pitching, but the results are not what we want, especially compared to what I have done on the road. You realize something is happening but I don’t know. We’re still looking to see what’s going on and hopefully it gets better because it’s our stadium, that’s where I want to feel more comfortable.”
Meanwhile, the 5-foot-8 Stroman didn’t just hit the first homer of his four-year career and first by a Blue Jays pitcher since 2003, he limited the Braves to seven hits and one walk with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. Stroman allowed one runner to advance past first base before the fifth inning. By then the Braves trailed 9-0, a hole dug by Teheran.
He began the game with an act of retribution for Wednesday’s antics by some Blue Jays by hitting No. 2 hitter Jose Bautista in the thigh with a 96-mph fastball (the hardest pitcher Teheran has thrown all season). Even that gesture backfired on the Braves and Teheran because he couldn’t pitch effectively to those who followed.
Kendrys Morales singled, Darrell Ceciliani hit an RBI double and Chris Coghlan followed with a two-run double that gave Toronto a 3-0 lead.
Ceciliani started in center field after Kevin Pillar was suspended two games by the Blue Jays for shouting a homophobic slur Wednesday at Braves reliever Jason Motte. That development also worked out for the Blue Jays as Ceciliani added a two-run homer in the three-run third inning before leaving with a shoulder injury.
It was the first homer of the season for each of the three Blue Jays who went deep against Teheran, and the first of Stroman’s career in his seventh at-bat.
After a 36-minute rain delay with two out in the top of the third inning, Teheran and Stroman stayed in the game when play resumed. Teheran continued to get hit.
Maile led off the fourth with a homer and the undersized Stroman followed with an opposite-field homer on an 0-2 pitch. When Teheran walked the next batter, Braves manager Brian Snitker went to the bullpen with none out in the fourth inning, bringing in journeyman left-hander Sam Freeman, who worked three solid innings (three hits, one walk).
But without the real Freeman, the Braves never began to mount the kind of late rally they did so frequently in the past.
Teheran’s season ERA climbed to 5.47 in nine starts, his outstanding road work more than offset by his woeful performances at SunTrust Park.
He pitched well and won in the Braves’ home opener April 14 against the Padres, allowing five hits and two runs in six innings. Teheran has lost every home start since, giving knocked around for 30 hits, eight homers and 26 earned runs in 18 innings in those past four games at SunTrust.
Teheran allowed seven, six, four and nine earned runs in his past four home starts and lasted four, six, five and three innings. For the season, he’s yielded 28 earned runs and 35 hits including eight homers in 24 innings at home. On the road, just two earned runs and 17 hits including no homers in 25 1/3 innings.