ANAHEIM – The Braves played an unusual and exciting game Monday night at Angel Stadium, one where Julio Teheran gave up three home runs, but on balance, pitched quite effectively.
A game where Braves hitters went down in order in seven of nine innings and scored in just one inning, yet scored so much in that frame that Teheran could give up three homers in the first four innings — including back-to-back jacks in the fourth — and still have a comfortable lead most of the night.
The Braves scored six runs in the third inning, all with two outs, and held on for a 6-3 win against the Angels in an interleague series opener, just the second win in six games but their seventh consecutive series-opening win for the Braves.
The Angels loaded the bases against Teheran with one out in the seventh inning and the Braves ahead 6-3, bringing ex-Brave Cameron Maybin to the plate representig the potential go-ahead run. Reliever Jose Ramirez entered the fray and quashed the rally, inducing a double-play grounder by Maybin on a full-count, 97-mph fastball.
Rookie third baseman Rio Ruiz made a slick play and second baseman Jace Peterson a nice turn on that 5-4-3 inning-ending double play, the play of the game.
“I was pretty pumped about that,” Ruiz said. “I was screaming, I was yelling. We got out of that inning. To get out of that inning for Julio — he pitched his tail off today.”
Ramirez had been behind in the count 3-1 before Maybin took a 97-mph strike 2.
“Huge,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I mean, good God, just to come back into that count like he did was really big. Great job. And a heck of a double play, too, by both guys, Rio and Jace.”
Teheran (4-4) gave up a home run to former Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons in the second inning and consecutive homers by Albert Pujols and Luis Valbuena, all three of those long balls coming on 0-1, four-seam fastballs clocked between 90-93 mph.
But all three homers came with bases empty and were the only three hits Teheran allowed through four innings, at which point the Braves still led 6-3.
“The offense was great at the beginning,” Teheran said. “That’s what you want, to get the lead. We were able to hold it the rest of the game.”
The Braves chased Angels starter Ricky Nolasco in a third inning that saw them send 11 batters to the plate and get six runs on five hits, a walk and an error. The big blows coming on a bases-loaded two-run double from Matt Adams that gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead, and a two-run double off the right-field wall by Danny Santana that pushed the lead to 6-1.
“If you didn’t hear them, I guess your ears were pretty shot,” Ruiz said, smiling. “They were yelling non-stop when I came up to bat, and I heard a couple of them during the defensive times…. Matt really started that (six-run inning) off having that good at-bat and driving those guys in. He was the kick-start for that. That was a huge inning.”
Four of six runs in the inning were unearned after Tyler Flowers’ hard-hit two-out grounder to third baseman Cliff Pennington was ruled an error, a tough play and ruling.
“I felt bad for Pennington on that,” Flowers said. “It’s nice stringing hits together, or at least hard-hit balls, putting the pressure on them and scoring a bunch of runs. That’s always nice early in the game, too.”
The Angels had two in scoring position in the fifth inning when Teheran struck out Kole Calhoun to get out of trouble, and after Ramirez bailed him out in the seventh Teheran finished with a solid pitching line despite the homers: 6 1/3 innings, six hits, three runs, one walk and five strikeouts in 91 pitches (61 strikes).
“He pitched really well,” Flowers said. “In that situation you don’t want to be creating momentum for them with free passes, you want to force them to be the aggressors, put balls in play, trust your stuff. He missed a few spots on those (home runs) and they hit them pretty good, too. But other than that, I really thought he was real sharp overall.
“I think he pitched a lot better than what his line ending up being.”
Teheran is 1-4 with a majors-worst 8.40 ERA in six home starts this season, but he’s 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA, that road ERA having doubled in one night from a miniscule 0.71 entering Monday.
Teheran had allowed just two earned runs and no homers in four road starts before Monday, but all of those games were in the Eastern Time Zone. This was out West, where Teheran has come unglued on multiple occasions in the past.
Before Monday he allowed 20 homers in 100 2/3 innings during 17 career road starts against teams in the West – 16 starts vs. National League West teams and one start at Seattle – and complained of having grip problems after several of those games in cool, dry conditions. The temperature was in the mid-60s Monday with a cool breeze.
The Angels played without superstar Mike Trout, who went on the disabled list Monday with a torn thumb ligament that will require surgery. The Braves were also without their marquee player, Freddie Freeman, who’s on the DL with a fractured wrist, and second baseman Brandon Phillips, who hurt a knee Sunday.
Pujols hit a line drive to left-center for his 598th career homer, closing in on becoming the ninth player in major league history to reach the 600-homer plateau. He’s also 12th in doubles with 608, 16 behind Braves icon Hank Aaron.
“The only one mistake on those home runs, I think, was to Simmons,” Teheran said. “He’s a high-ball hitter, I made a mistake throwing high to him. Albert, I wanted to go in (and did throw an inside pitch), but he got me pretty good…. Six hundred home runs, that’s a lot of home runs.”
The Braves had a 6-1 lead before the Pujols homer, and still led 6-3 when Valbuena homered two pitches later. Simmons lined a shot to left field that briefly looked like it might be the third consecutive homer off Teheran, but it sailed foul.
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