PHILADELPHIA – While Ryan Howard breaking up Julio Teheran’s no-hit bid with a fifth-inning infield single was highly improbable, Evan Gattis hitting a home run at Citizens Bank Park was, at this point, entirely predictable.
Gattis’ career-high four hits included his fifth homer in his past three games at Philadelphia, a leadoff shot in the fourth inning that broke a scoreless tie and sent Teheran and the Braves to a 1-0 win, their fifth in a row.
Teheran pitched brilliantly in his first complete game, a three-hitter with four strikeouts and no walks. He allowed only one base runner until Carlos Ruiz’s two-out single in the eighth, and induced a game-ending groundout by Chase Utley with a runner at second after Jimmy Rollins’ two-out single in the ninth.
“That’s him to the core,” Gattis said of Teheran’s ninth-inning capper. “He’s fiery. He’s a competitor. He’s a winner.”
The win clinched the series at a place where Atlanta’s bearded, burly catcher has become a menace to the Phillies.
Gattis had four of the Braves’ 13 hits against veteran left-hander Cliff Lee (2-2), who threw a whopping 128 pitches in a complete game with 13 strikeouts and one walk, and yet was outpitched by Teheran (2-1).
“I didn’t pay attention to who I was facing,” Teheran said. “I was just concentrating on the hitters. That’s what I did the whole game, just concentrate on what I wanted to throw and throw it for a strike, don’t make a mistake.”
Lee became the first pitcher to strike out 13 in a 1-0 loss since he did himself against the Braves in his last start against them in 2013. He pitched complete games in both of those games.
Howard chugged to first base to beat out a chopped single to the right side of the infield to start the fifth inning. With the Braves employing a defensive shift against the dead-pull hitter, Chris Johnson fielded Howard’s high-bouncing grounder and shoveled the ball to first base with his glove in one motion. The play wasn’t very close.
And that was it. Their big, gimpy first baseman got a hit for the Phillies, who got nothing else until two out in the eighth against Teheran. The 23-year-old right-hander was in control all the way on a night when the temperature fell to 43 degrees by the seventh inning.
He threw 75 strikes in 115 pitches, and by going the distance he gave the Braves’ bullpen some welcome rest. David Carpenter began warming up in the ninth inning, but closer Craig Kimbrel got his fourth day of rest since feeling soreness in his pitching shoulder in Saturday’s game.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez wouldn’t say if he’d use Kimbrel in Thursday’s series finale.
Before Wednesday, all four of Gattis’ hits in 20 career at-bats at Citizens Bank Park had been home runs, including a two-homer game in Monday’s series opener. (Tuesday’s game was rained out). His second-inning single ended that all-or-nothing streak, and Gattis would add a leadoff single in the sixth and a two-out single in the eighth to complete his 4-for-4 performance.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, he’s first player to go 4-for-4 or better with a HR in a 1-0 win since Rogers Hornsby in 1929. Gattis said he likes the batter’s eye backdrop in center field at the Philadelphia ballpark.
“It’s just wide open,” he said. “So maybe I see (the ball) better here. Maybe not. I really don’t know.”
Gattis also had two-homer game Sept. 8 against Cole Hamels, including a 486-foot homer to straightaway center field that was easily the longest homer in the majors last season and longest by a Brave in the past nine years.
His fourth-inning homer sailed just over the outstretched glove of left fielder Dominic Brown. Phillies fans were stunned: Gattis again.
He has 14 hits, six homers and 11 RBIs in his past seven games — home and away — against Philadelphia, and seven homers in 12 career games against them.
That Gattis, a former ski-lift operator whose nickname is El Oso Blanco – aka the White Bear — would excel in cold weather wasn’t surprising. But at this point neither should it be a surprise when Teheran is dominant in chilly conditions.
Last season, the young Colombian allowed one run in seven innings of an April 23 win at Colorado in the second game of a doubleheader with the temperature below freezing. But Teheran took it to a whole new level Wednesday. He pitched like an ace, outperforming a pitcher who has been a bona fide ace for years.
Gattis has six homers in his past seven games overall against the Phillies. But he had been 0-for-6 with four strikeouts against Lee before Wednesday.
An expanded version of this game story, with significantly more quotes, is available on MyAJC.com.
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