Braves score early and often in 8-0 rout of Reds

CINCINNATI – After struggling against a good pitcher they were unfamiliar with Wednesday at Pittsburgh, the Braves on Thursday faced a Reds pitcher who had nothing in common with the Pirates' Gerrit Cole other than being the same age.

David Holmberg never stood a chance.

The Braves chased the Reds left-hander with a five-run third inning, while Julio Teheran pitched six innings of four-hit ball in an 8-0 Atlanta win to open a four-game series at Great American Ball Park.

It was the sixth win in seven games for the Braves, who improved to 3-1 on a 10-game road trip.

Andrelton Simmons homered in the second inning and Justin Upton had two hits and three RBIs for the Braves, including a two-run single in the third inning when they took a 6-0 lead.

The first four in Atlanta’s batting order reached base 11 times and accounted for six runs and four RBIs: Jason Heyward had two singles and a walk; Phil Gosselin had two hits including a double, and Freddie Freeman walked and was twice hit by pitches.

Upton, the cleanup hitter, added a sacrifice fly and a walk to go with his two hits, raising his average to .400 (16-for-40) with four homers and 18 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak.

Teheran (12-9) kept his focus through some marathon innings by Braves batters. He walked none, struck out three, and didn’t give up an extra-base hit until Brandon Phillips’ two-out double in the fourth, the final hit he allowed. Teheran threw 61 strikes in 87 pitches, and the game was nearly at the 2 ½-hour point when he left after six innings with an 8-0 lead.

Holmberg (0-1) entered with a 16.88 ERA and .500 opponents’ average in one start this season – the second game of a doubleheader against the Cubs — and managed to raise that ERA to 18.56.

In three career starts, the 23-year-old has a 14.00 ERA with 18 hits, 14 runs, four homers and 10 walks allowed in nine innings. He hasn’t made it through the third inning of either start this season.

Holmberg hit Freeman with a pitch with two out in the first inning and walked Upton, but he got through the inning unscathed. He gave up a one-out solo homer to Simmons in the second inning, the fourth homer for the shortstop in 11 career games against the Reds and his third in four games at the cozy Cincinnati ballpark.

Holmberg had gotten through two innings with only one run allowed, but a few other well-struck balls provided an inkling of what lay ahead in the third inning.

It went like this: Heyward leadoff single (on an overturned catch ruling in left after the Braves challenged). Gosselin bunt single. Freeman walk. The bases were loaded for the Braves’ hottest hitter, Upton, whose single through the left side made it a 3-0 lead.

The Braves were just getting warmed up. Chris Johnson doubled off the wall in left-center to bring in a run, and Evan Gattis hit a sacrifice fly for a 5-0 lead and the first out of the inning. When Simmons followed with a fly out, it looked like Holmberg might escape the nightmarish frame without further damage.

That is, until he intentionally walked B.J. Upton. That brought up Teheran, and Holmberg hit the pitcher in the lower left leg.

Oh, it had gotten ugly quick for young Holmberg.

He walked Heyward with the bases loaded to force in the fifth run of the inning, pushing the lead to 6-0 and bringing out the merciful hook as Reds manager Bryan Price strode to the mound.

Reliever Pedro Villarreal entered and struck out Gosselin for the third out with the bases loaded. The Braves had sent 11 batters to the plate in the 29-minute half-inning and scored five runs on four hits, a hit-by-pitch, three walks and a sacrifice fly.

It was the third time in four days that they scored five or more runs in an inning, after doing it four times previously all season.

For a complete write-thru version of this story with postgame quotes, please go to MyAJC.com or use this link.