Catcher Kurt Suzuki (right) of the Braves is congratulated by third base coach Ron Washington after Suzuki’s home run in the second inning. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

Kemp, Teheran lead Braves past Rockies in series opener

If Julio Teheran and Matt Kemp were looking to end a couple of bad trends, they had the right opponent in town to take care of business against Friday when the Rockies arrived for a weekend series.

Teheran pitched efficiently into the eighth inning and Kemp had three hits including a two-run first-inning homer to spark a 5-2 Braves win against the Rockies at SunTrust Park, where Teheran snapped his Atlanta Braves-record nine-game home losing streak.

Kurt Suzuki added a leadoff homer in the three-run second inning and rookie Ozzie Albies reached base four times with a double, single and two walks for the Braves, who won a series opener for the first time since Aug. 4, when they beat the Marlins in their last series win.

“It feels pretty good,” said Teheran, who got his first home win since the Braves’ home opener, allowing five hits and two runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. “It’s been a while since I got a (home) win. But it’s just a good thing that we got a win.”

In their past five series, the Braves have lost four and split one since, the split coming in a four-game series at Colorado Aug. 14-17. They’d like to end that drought in this last series of a nine-game homestand and got off to a good start by scoring runs early, something that’s not come easy for them.

“Obviously to get those two runs on the board right away, that was a big step just because we’ve been chasing a little bit in the last few days,” Suzuki said. “And to get on top and have Julio throw the way he did – he was pretty much identical to the way he was in Colorado. It was a nice win tonight.”

Teheran didn’t face more than four batters in any inning, had only one three-ball count and threw 69 strikes in 88 pitches, the fewest he’s ever thrown to get as deep in a game in his career.

“Kept the ball down, breaking ball was really good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It was kind of nice for him to get some early runs like that and he did a really good job being aggressive and using all his pitches. I’m just really glad to see him go out and have an outing like that here.”

Teheran was 1-9 with a 6.98 ERA in 13 starts at SunTrust Park before Friday, compared to 6-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 12 road starts. He won the April 14 home opener against the Padres and since then was 0-9 with a 7.36 ERA in his past 12 home starts before Friday.

That trend was superseded by another as Teheran continued a run of strong performances against the Rockies. He improved to 5-1 with a 2.21 ERA in nine career starts against the Rockies, with half of the 14 earned runs he’s allowed against them came in his only loss against them in June 2014 at Coors Field.

He’s 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA in his other eight starts against Colorado including three others at Coors Field, where he pitched four scoreless innings in an injury-shortened start in 2016 and worked seven scoreless innings on Aug. 14.

Teheran would have gone deeper in Friday’s game if not for leg cramps that affected him in his last two innings.

He had a streak of 20 scoreless innings against the Rockies end in the third inning when Trevor Story hit a leadoff double and scored on a single by Charlie Blackmon, who played at North Gwinnett High, Georgia Tech and Young Harris College. But by then the Braves had built a 5-0 lead.

Kemp has not been much of a force in the Braves’ lineup for some time now, batting .230 with just two homers and a .591 OPS in his past 32 games before Friday. He had no extra-base hits and hadn’t hit the ball with much authority in four games since returning from his second stint on the disabled list for another hamstring injury.

But against the Rockies, he was the Matt Kemp of old, the guy who’s pillaged Coloreado pitching since his days with the Dodgers when he was a National League MVP runner-up and Gold Glove center fielder.

After Chad Bettis (0-1) walked Freddie Freeman with two out in the first inning, Kemp hit a first-pitch homer, his 15th of the season, which raised his career-best totals to 42 homers and 142 RBIs in 159 games against the Rockies. His second-most in each category is 35 home runs and 109 RBIs vs. Arizona in 157 games.

And this isn’t a high-altitude thing: Only 19 of his 42 homers against the Rockies came at Coors Field (78 games).

Kemp added a fifth-inning single and eighth-inning double for just his second three-hit game since June 10, raising his career average to .316 with a whopping 91 extra-base hits and an OPS well over 1.000 in 601 at-bats against the Rockies. He has 32 homers and 97 RBIs in his past 92 games against them.

Suzuki also homered off Bettis to give the veteran catcher his 15th homer in just his 191st at-bat for the Braves. This after he totaled 13 homers in 778 at-bats over the previous two seasons.

He matched the career-high 15 homers he hit in 570 at-bats with Oakland in 2009 and did it in one-third the number of at-bats.

“I don’t know, I’ve been keeping my body healthy, I’ve been working out with the (Braves) performance staff,” he said. “And working with Seitz (hitting coach Kevin Seitzer), we kind of found a little thing that clicked for us and I just kind of ran with it. I just go up there and look for a good pitch and try to be aggressive right away.”

Teheran pitched 7 1/3 efficient innings and the Braves scored all their runs in the first two innings of a 5-2 win against the Rockies Friday. (Video by Davd O'Brien)

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