Braves shut out again, lose season series to Marlins

MIAMI – The Braves ventured out on this latest three-city trip talking about a need to at least win every series and hopefully sweep one or two to boost their postseason chances.

So much for that notion.

Julio Teheran ran into a wall in the fifth inning and the Braves lost 4-0 to Miami in a series finale at Marlins Park, their second loss in three games to start a crucial nine-game trip that continues Monday in Washington against the National League East-leading Nationals.

The Braves went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, were shut out for the fourth time in eight games, and fell to seven games behind the Nationals in the division with only 19 games lefty to play. They also slipped to a half-game behind the Pirates for the second and final NL wild-card spot.

“There weren’t many (scoring chances), but the opportunity was there,” said Jason Heyward, who led off the sixth inning with a single, advanced to third on Phil Gosselin’s double, then saw the next three Braves fail to drive either of them in.

“All it takes is one (hit), one time,” Heyward said. “It didn’t happen today. It’s not going to go unnoticed obviously, because we’re in a very tight race. Unfortunately, today’s over with. We’ve got to go get them tomorrow.”

The Braves are running out of tomorrows. They are 9-4 against the Nationals, who had a comfortable six-game lead in the East before Sunday, but the Braves finished with a 9-10 record in their season series against Miami. The Marlins, after losing 100 games in 2013, are 69-72 and only four games behind the Braves in the division and wild-card standings.

They beat the Braves again in this series by doing a lot of the fundamental stuff the Braves have not done well this season, including hitting with runners in scoring position or otherwise getting a run in from third with less than two outs.

“They do the little things good — they put up good at-bats, everybody throughout the lineup,” Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. “There was no easy out.”

Teheran (13-11) was charged with eight hits and four runs in 5 1/3 innings and lost for the first time in eight career starts against the Marlins.

He had a 1.80 ERA while not allowing more than two earned runs in his past four starts before Sunday, but Teheran now has lost consecutive starts in shutout defeats. In a 7-0 loss to the Phillies on Sept. 1, his five runs allowed in 6 2/3 innings included three unearned runs.

“I missed a couple of times and they got hits on me,” said Teheran, who retired 13 consecutive batters before giving up seven hits to the last nine he faced. “I got in a little bit of trouble and they decided to take me out. That’s something I can’t control.”

He showed his frustration after being taken out of the game, particularly in his fiery demeanor when he got to the dugout.

“Sometimes that’s the reaction you get from the game, when you get in trouble you just want to fight (through it),” Teheran said. “When I get in trouble I want to fight and I want to get out of it. Sometimes it’s a bad reaction, but it happened…. Sometimes I control (the emotional reaction) and sometimes I can’t.”

Asked if the team’s struggles and lack of offense contributed to his frustration, he said, “I look at more what I can do, what I have on my hands, what I can control. (Offense) is their job and I worry about my job and just try to keep the team in the game, give them a chance to score… I just worry about getting outs.

“I get more frustrated when I don’t make pitches, when I get men on base and try to get a ground ball and I don’t make pitches.”

Marlins left-hander Brad Hand (3-6) became the latest undistinguished pitcher to hold the Braves in check, allowing five hits and no walks in six innings to snap his four-game losing streak.

The Braves have been shut out five times during a 6-8 stretch in which they’ve hit .216 and totaled 34 runs in 14 games. They’ve been shut out 13 times this season, tied for most in the NL, including four times by the Marlins, the team they’ll face in the 2015 season opener in Miami.

“We had some opportunities,” Simmons said. “We didn’t capitalize, and you’ve got to give it to them – they did a good job, too. Hand threw a hell of a game. The relievers did what they’ve been doing against us, which is pretty good. But we’ve got to step it up, though.”

Teheran recorded 14 outs in his first 14 batters faced Sunday, including a first-inning pickoff, before Garrett Jones’ two-out double in the fifth inning. Jarrod Saltalamacchia followed with an RBI single.

Teheran gave up a third consecutive two-out hit to put runners on the corners before getting Hand to line out to left field to end the inning and limit the damage to a run. But damage control took a hiatus in the fifth, when Teheran gave up four hits to five batters before he was removed from the game with the Braves trailing 3-0.

“He was fighting a pesky lineup,” Heyward said. “We had a chance to tie it up for him there and we didn’t get it done. But it’s tough. He battled for us and they were able to get to him. That’s the kind of team they are. They’re pesky, but they can deliver a big blow.”

Donovano Solano singled in a run and Marcello Ozuna an RBI double to chase Teheran from the game. After reliever Luis Avilan intentionally walked Jeff Baker to load the bases, Saltalamacchia’s sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 4-0.

“Teheran just gave up four runs, and most nights he’s got a chance to win the game,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “But this is a … we’ve been shut out, what, four times in six games, something like that? I thought the game was right there, an opportunity to get back in it or to go ahead. We didn’t have any productive outs there.”

The Braves had a runner in scoring position with none out in the fifth inning after Chris Johnson singled and stole second base. The next three batters: Simmons line-out to shotstop, Emilio Bonifacio fly out to right field, Teheran ground out to the pitcher.

Things got worse in the sixth when they did something they’ve done far too frequently this season: Failed to score after putting two runners in scoring position with none out. After Heyward’s leadoff single and Phil Gosselin’s double put Braves at second and third, the next three batters went like this: Freddie Freeman ground out, Justin Upton strike out, Evan Gattis line out to left field.

Inning over. And when the Marlins scored three in the bottom of the inning to push the lead to 4-0, game over.

The Braves are three games closer to the Marlins in the standings than they are to the Nationals.

“It’s a good team, in my opinion,” Heyward said of the Marlins. “Good pitching, they play good defense – I would say above average at their positions – and timely hits, man. Obviously they’ve got guys with home runs and RBIs, but they also have guys that are going to put the ball in play, and they base-hit you to death sometimes. Definitely a good team.”