While reeling off a 10-game winning streak before Wednesday and building the majors’ best record, the Braves showed they could win in a variety of ways, but usually involving a home run or three.
They would get a two-run homer in the first inning and cruise one day, and overcome four-run deficits in the late innings another day (they did that twice). They pounded opponents by 8-0 and 9-0 scores and won other games 2-0 and 3-1.
One thing they didn’t figure out how to do: win without scoring. No one has yet.
The Kansas City Royals scratched out a run on three singles in the fourth inning for a 1-0 win in a rare noon game Wednesday at Turner Field, ending the Braves’ longest winning streak in nearly 13 years.
“You’ve got to hit to win,” said Braves catcher Evan Gattis, part of the first five in the Braves’ order that were a combined 2-for-20 with no walks and seven strikeouts.
The Royals (8-6) earned a split of the two-game series against the Braves (12-2), who go back on the road for a 10-game trip to Colorado, Pittsburgh and Detroit. That will end a stretch in which 16 of 18 Braves games are away from Atlanta.
Braves starter Mike Minor (2-1) allowed just five hits, one run and no walks in six innings, keeping his ERA at a tidy 0.97. But it wasn’t enough on a sunny afternoon when Royals pitcher Wade Davis had good control and exploited umpire Doug Eddings’ strike zone.
“I felt good,” Minor said. “It was just one of those days where we couldn’t get anything off Davis.”
The Royals took advantage of a defensive mistake by Gattis in the fourth. The rookie had Alcides Escobar dead to rights after Escobar strayed off first base on an aborted stolen-base attempt or botched hit-and-run. Instead of throwing quickly to first, Gattis initially ran toward Escobar, giving him time to retreat to first ahead of the throw.
Two outs and two hits later, Escobar scored on Jeff Francoeur’s single.
“We talked about it in the dugout,” Gonzalez said. “He’s got to give it up a little sooner than he did. That’s stuff you learn up here in the big leagues, the speed of the game and that kind of stuff. That’s a learning moment.”
Davis (2-0) allowed five hits and no walks with seven strikeouts in seven innings. The Braves’ other loss was April 4 against the Phillies’ Cliff Lee, who allowed two hits and no walks with eight strikeouts in eight innings of a 2-0 game.
The Braves are 12-0 when they hit at least one homer.
“(Davis) did well, hit his spots, had a good breaking ball,” said Justin Upton, who went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts, one after Jason Heyward’s two-out double in the fifth. “He did pretty much everything today. We just didn’t solve him.”
The Braves’ best opportunity came when Juan Francisco hit a two-out double in the seventh inning and Chris Johnson followed with a bloop double behind the right side of the infield. Third-base coach Brian Snitker sent Francisco, whose nickname is Roadrunner because he’s not fast. Francisco was thrown out at the plate.
The Braves hit five homers in Tuesday’s 6-3 win and led the majors with 25 homers in their first 13 games.
“Sometimes that (opposing pitcher) goes out there and beats us,” Upton said. “That’s part of the game. That’s why we play so many games. We’ve just got to continue doing what we’ve been doing and put together good at-bats.”
Kelvin Herrera, who the Braves torched for three homers in the eighth inning Tuesday, gave up only a single in the eighth Wednesday. Greg Holland struck out the side in the ninth, getting Dan Uggla on a called strike to end the game.
Uggla stood at the plate and stared at Eddings after the ump rung him up and walked off the field. Eddings drew the ire of several Braves for strike calls on pitches that appeared to be borderline or just outside the zone.
Gonzalez said, “Doug (Eddings) is one of the better umpires in the major leagues, and I think on any given game, especially a one-run game, you’re going to get a little frustrated with the strike zone. We had some opportunities. We just couldn’t get any good swings today.”
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