MIAMI – When the Braves needed the dude they consider their staff ace to step up and pitch like it Saturday night, Julio Teheran answered the bell.
He bounced back from a couple of uninspired performances at home to pitch six scoreless innings in a 3-1 win against the Marlins as the Braves clinched their first series win in two weeks and continued their success at Marlins Park.
“That might be as crisp and as good as I’ve seen Julio since I’ve been here,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said, “and he’s pitched some really good ballgames since I’ve been here.”
Nick Markakis and Dansby Swanson hit run-scoring singles in the fourth inning to send the Braves toward their second consecutive win since a six-game losing streak. It moved them ahead of the skidding and now last-place Marlins in the National League East standings.
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“Kudos to everybody for being able to do what we did tonight,” said Swanson, whose two-out, two-strike RBI single off Edinson Volquez proved to be the game-winning RBI. “It just so happens I got a single with somebody on third base.”
The Marlins were shut out until Justin Bour’s leadoff homer in the seventh on the first pitch thrown by reliever Eric O’Flaherty, the 46th homer of Bour’s career and remarkably the first against a left-hander.
Teheran (3-3) allowed just three hits and two walks — both against Bour, whom he was pitching around — with four strikeouts in six innings in the two-time All-Star’s 50th major league win in 93 decisions over 141 games (138 starts).
“It feels really good whenever you have a really good outing after two rough ones,” said Teheran, who allowed 15 hits, 10 runs and three homers in 11 innings over his previous two starts, home losses against the Mets and Cardinals. “I’ve been working hard to get back. I’m pretty happy with how I did today. Everything was working.
“I had two walks but that was something that I wanted, I wanted to pitch around that guy (Bour). Everything was good.”
Bour has hit 10 homers in 33 games against the Braves, his most against any team. All but two of those have been hit in Miami including one in each of the first two games of this series.
The Braves will go for a three-game sweep Sunday afternoon at Marlins Park, where they have a majors-best 34-15 since the retractable-dome stadium opened in 2012 including 9-3 since the beginning of the 2016 season.
A huge disparity in Teheran’s home and road splits continued: He’s 1-3 with an 8.14 ERA in four home starts and 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in four road starts.
“Couple of years ago it was the other way, I was having trouble on the road,” Teheran said. “Hopefully we’ll get everything together. I know home (results) has been a little weird, but I don’t want to put that in my mind. It’s a new stadium, everything is new for everybody.”
Teheran left for a pinch-hitter in the seventh with no runners on base and his pitch count at 94. When Bour homered on the first pitch thrown by O’Flaherty, that decision to pull Teheran was starting to look a bit dicey. But O’Flaherty settled in retired the next three batters.
Ater the Braves added a run in the eighth, reliever Arodys Vizcaino gave up a two-out single in the bottom of the inning before striking out Marcell Ozuna and pounding his glove excitedly as he walked off the mound. Jim Johnson pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save.
The Marlins, despite a potent lineup, have a season-high five-game losing streak and have dropped 14 of 17 games since a 10-8 start. Their pitching staff is thin and lately they’ve played poor defense, including a few costly mistakes Saturday.
Left fielder Ozuna lost Freddie Freeman’s fly ball in the lights to start the fourth inning, giving Freeman a double. Markakis drove him in one out later. After a ground-out, a wild pitch and a walk, Swanson singled to push the lead to 2-0 against Marlins starter Edinson Voquez. Swanson had struck out with two on to end the second inning.
“I just always enjoy the competition, especially after the first at-bat with (Volquez) throwing me three really good pitches and not coming through then,” Swanson said. “It was actually nice to get another chance at it. Just trying to compete up there. When you get two strikes that’s what matters the most anyway is just trying to get tough and compete.”
Bour’s homer cut the lead in half, but the Braves pushed it back to a two-run margin in the eighth after another Freeman double, this time with two out. Matt Kemp followed with a grounder that third baseman Derek Dietrich fielded before bouncing a throw to first base. It was ruled a hit with a throwing error allowing Freeman to score.
Three of Teheran’s past four starts had been bad to very bad, and he was 1-3 with an 8.02 ERA in that stretch. He got back on track against the Marlins with his first scoreless outing since going six innings on opening day against the Mets, and his first without allowing an earned run since he pitched seven innings against the Pirates in his second start.
Teheran did it Saturday against a team that had frustrated him since September 2015. In his past four starts against the Marlins before Saturday, he was 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA and five homers allowed, and the Braves had lost all four games.
He came out firing strikes and only faced more than four batters in one inning (five in the fourth inning). All three hits he allowed were doubles with one out in the first, one out in the fourth and two out in the fifth, and Teheran retired five of the six batters he faced in those innings after the hits, with a two-out walk to Bour the only exception.