Teheran struggles early, Braves lose again at SunTrust

As much as the Braves all say they love SunTrust Park and praise its aesthetics, amenities and hitter-friendly characteristics, the home team and its No. 1 starter, Julio Teheran, haven’t had much success lately at their new ballpark.

Teheran gave up four runs and two homers in the first four innings Saturday against the Cardinals, who built a five-run lead and withstood a three-run homer from Adonis Garcia for a 5-3 win against the Braves in front of a crowd of 40,706 on Star Wars Night.

It was the Braves’ seventh loss in the past eight games at SunTrust Park after sweeping four games against the Padres to open the new stadium in Cobb County. The Braves are 1-4 on a homestand that ends Sunday when they’ll try to avert a three-game series sweep by the Cardinals, who’ve won five in a row in the Atlanta metro area over two seasons.

The Braves have trailed before their first at-bat in all five completed games on the homestand.

“Just one of them weeks,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the pitching woes. “I think we’re better than what we’ve shown. Our offense has went through a stretch before; it’s going to happen. We’ve got a long way to go and these guys are going to continue to work and grind. We’ll get better and we’ll turn it around.”

Teheran (2-3) threw 110 pitches in five innings and was charged with nine hits, four runs and two walks with three strikeouts. He slipped to 1-3 with an 8.14 ERA in four home starts and 1-0 with an 0.93 ERA in three road starts including two at New York’s Citi Field.

The two-time All-Star has allowed 27 hits with five home runs in 21 innings at SunTrust Park and 14 hits with no homers in 19 1/3 innings on the road.

“I don’t know,” Teheran said. “I don’t really think (about) whether it’s a hitter’s park or a pitcher’s park. Just whenever you don’t make your pitches, you’re going to pay for it — here or wherever you pitch.”

Garcia’s homer was the first allowed this season by Cardinals starter Mike Leake (4-1), who pitched seven innings and allowed three hits, three runs and two walks as his ERA inched up from a National League-leading 1.35 to 1.79.

The Braves have lost five of six overall since a four-game winning streak, and they’ve been outscored 31-8 during a current three-game losing skid including a 10-0 loss to the Cardinals in Friday’s series opener. The Braves (11-17) are last in the National League East, nine games behind the first-place Nationals.

“Julio’s been so good for us that you’re not used to seeing him allow any runs,” Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte said. “I mean, he’s not going to be perfect every day, but we know he’s going to make any adjustment he has to make and hopefully come better. Because we need him and we know how good he is.”

Leake allowed one hit through six innings and had a 5-0 lead before the Braves’ offense stirred in the seventh. After a one-out double from Matt Kemp and a Nick Markakis walk, Garcia hit a first-pitch homer that gave Braves partisans something to get excited about that wasn’t Star Wars-related.

That burst ended a stretch of 19 official scoreless innings for the Braves, but it was all they could muster against Leake.

Teheran gave up a two-run homer to Matt Carpenter in the third inning – Carpenter is 6-for-12 with two homers against Teheran — and a leadoff homer to Matt Adams in the fourth.

The Cardinals scored their first run in the opening inning on Aledmys Diaz’s two-out RBI single. They had two hits and two walks in that inning but left the bases loaded when Teheran got Greg Garcia to ground out.

After a leadoff single by Adams in the third, Carpenter homered on an 89-mph, 2-2 fastball left over the plate.

Teheran allowed 15 hits and 10 runs in 11 innings in his two starts on the homestand against the Mets and Cardinals.

“Today I felt a lot better,” he said. “I felt like the ball was coming out pretty good. A couple of mistakes I made, but that’s part of the game. They took advantage whenever I was missing to score some runs.”

The only time a Braves pitcher didn’t give up any runs in the first inning was Thursday against the Mets, when the game was rained out with the Mets ahead 3-1 in the fourth inning.

“It is tough,” Snitker said of falling behind early. “And against a guy like (Leake), too. He’s throwing the ball really well and he’s real efficient. He was throwing a lot of strikes and attacking hitters. We knew we were going to have our hands full going into tonight, so it adds to the problem when you get behind a guy like that when you have to play catch-up.”

Inciarte said, “The other teams that we’ve been facing, they’ve been swinging the bat. Sometimes it’s going to go like that. Our pitchers are trying their best to stop the other team from scoring runs, but sometimes it’s just not going to happen. Hopefully in the next few games we’re going to make some adjustment offensively, defensively and the pitchers, too, because everybody here wants to win.”

Just one Brave reached base through five innings and they didn’t advance a runner to second until the sixth inning, when pinch-hitter Lane Adams reached on an error with one out and then stole second base. After Ender Inciarte walked, Inciarte was thrown out at the back end of a double-steal attempt — it was Inciarte’s decision to try to steal second — and the speedy Adams was stranded at third when Phillips popped out to end the inning.