Braves win second straight over A’s (updated)

For the second straight game – against the best team in baseball – the Braves’ bats supported a quality performance from their starting pitcher.

On Saturday night, Julio Teheran was the beneficiary.

The Braves supported their ace with just enough runs en route to a 4-3 victory over the A’s at Turner Field. The win came one night after the Braves’ used four home runs in a 7-2 victory for Alex Wood.

The Braves (63-60) needed the victory to remain six games behind the Nationals in the National League East. The Nationals erased a three-run deficit in a 4-3 victory over the visiting Pirates. The results move the Braves to within 1-1/2 games behind the Giants for the second wildcard spot.

“It’s not about trying to win series anymore,” said Chris Johnson, who finished with three hits and two RBIs. “We have to win them all. We have to win all the games. Coming in tomorrow, winning the first two (of the series) means absolutely nothing.

“We are not going to give up. I think we know that. We are not going to just crumble with 39 games left. That’s a lot of baseball, definitely a lot of baseball.

The Braves move to 5-4 on the 10-game homestand against three first-place teams. The series against the A’s concludes with Sunday night’s nationally televised game. The Braves took 2 of 3 from the Nationals but dropped 3 of 4 from the Dodgers.

Teheran (11-9, 3.05 ERA) pitched six innings for the victory. He allowed just four hits and two runs, those coming on a home run in his final inning.

The Braves won for the fifth time in the past 17 games. They are now 11-17 since the All-Star break and managed to keep the Nationals in their sights.

“We know we are not out of this thing,” said Freddie Freeman, who delivered a first-inning RBI double. “We have 39 games (left) now and we’ve been swinging the bats well the last couple of games. Hopefully that’s a sign of more things to come. If we keep swinging the bats the way we are and pitching the way we are we are going to be there at the end.”

The two straight wins came against the A’s (73-50), who still hold the best record in the major leagues. Sonny Gray (12-7, 2.99) took the loss.

The Braves scored twice in the first inning. Phil Gosselin singled to center and Freeman brought him home with a hard-pulled double down the right-field line. It was Freeman’s 17th hit in 34 at-bats (.500) over the past 10 games. One out later, Johnson singled home Freeman.

The Braves added a run in the fourth with three singles, the third being a knock by Andrelton Simmons to score Justin Upton.

The A’s rallied with two runs in the sixth courtesy of a Stephen Vogt two-out, two-run homer off Teheran.

Johnson singled home Upton from first base with this third hit in the sixth inning to push the Braves’ lead to 4-2. It would prove to be valuable insurance.

John Jaso homered off Jordan Walden in the eighth to get the A’s back within a run. However, Craig Kimbrel closed the door with his 36th save. Josh Reddick took a Kimbrel offering to the warning track to lead off the ninth inning but Upton caught it with his back to the left field wall. A walk put the tying run at first base but Kimbrel got the next two batters.

“He did a hell of a job,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Teheran. “Those guys over there, offensively, they don’t give any at-bats away. They battle you, at least the last couple of days. That’s why they do what they do. They grind out at-bats and the next thing you know your starter is in the sixth inning with over 100 pitches. Last night, it was the same thing. But (Teheran) did, he gave us a hell of a game. We were able to jump out early and get a couple of runs against one of the American League’s best starters. And we held on.”

Teheran picked off Reddick in the first inning. It was the third pickoff for the right-hander in his previous 10 innings pitched. Only left-hander Madison Bumgarner (14) has more pickoffs that Teheran (13) over the past two seasons. No other right-hander during that span has more than six.

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