Three Cuts: Braves foiled by Giants, losing skid hits 5
MAY 03, 2014 10:41p ET
In fact, the last time the Braves endured a skid of this magnitude (May 21-28, 2012) ... most of America had yet to be seduced by TV's Scandal.
1. Julio Teheran had the stuff of a burgeoning ace, even in defeat
OK, so maybe Teheran didn't have a letter-perfect night, surrendering a career-high three homers (all solo blasts).
But the efficiency and consistency were certainly there, as Teheran (three runs allowed, zero walks, six strikeouts) didn't face more than four batters in any of his seven innings; and of his 87 pitches ... only 23 balls.
Put it all together, and the 23-year-old dynamo deserved a better fate than incurring his second defeat. On the bright side, even with this homer-heavy evening ... Teheran's seasonal ERA still stands at a robust 1.80 -- easily one of the best tallies among National League starters.
"(The Giants) are very good hitters. I made some mistakes (on the mound) ... and paid for it," said Teheran during the postgame media scrum, specifically addressing the solo homers allowed to Brandon Belt (second inning), Buster Posey (fourth inning) and Michael Morse (seventh inning) -- the heart of San Francisco's batting lineup.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was a little more philosophical about his staff's run of bad luck -- when not pitching from the stretch.
"They say that 'solo homers don't beat you,' but that's two nights in a row for us," said Gonzalez, alluding to the Giants tallying all five of their Friday-Saturday runs through solo homers.
As a trio on Saturday, Teheran, David Carpenter and David Hale yielded only four hits against the Giants: The lone non-homer? Posey (2 for 4) earned a harmless single in the opening inning (against Teheran).
2. The Braves hitters have been marginal at best during crunch time
Check this out: Since April 20, spanning 12 games (including Saturday), the Braves have accounted for 29 runs, for a pedestrian average of 2.4 runs per outing.
To put that into better context, Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki (.385 batting) and Charlie Blackmon (.380 hitting) -- who currently rank 1-2 in the National League batting race -- have combined for 32 runs since April 18.
Yes, that duo has the luxury of playing 81 games at Coors Field (per year); but then again, neither had to encounter the likes of Jose Fernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg or the Cardinals' Michael Wacha during that stretch.
As for Saturday, Gonzalez thought his club was primed for a breakout or two -- at least early on.
"It seems like we've got a guy on base (every inning)," lamented Gonzalez, forgetting the Braves went down in order for the 4th, 7th, 8th and 9th. "We've just got to (find a way) to get the runner home."
Against a somewhat shaky Ryan Vogelsong, the Braves flirted with a bonanza of runs in the early going. Atlanta loaded the bases in the 2nd, but that movement was ultimately thwarted by a Teheran groundout.
An inning later, after the Braves' initial three hitters reached base, a crucial strikeout-throwout (involving Justin Upton at the plate and Freddie Freeman sprinting to second base) halted any type of sustained rally.
Even Atlanta's lone run of the night was the product of some good fortune. After walking to start the third inning, Jason Heyward (1 for 3) stealthily stole second base, despite the on-target throw from Posey.
A minute later, Heyward scored easily on B.J. Upton's hot-shot double down the left-field line. If he had not stolen second, Heyward likely would have been stranded on third base when the inning eventually ended.
Bottom line: Yes, Freeman (six HRs, 18 RBI, .304 batting, .383 on-base percentage) and Justin Upton (eight HRs, 18 RBI, .311 batting, .390 OBP) carried the Braves through a wildly successful April, but May has gotten off to a painfully slow start, with Atlanta accounting for just six total runs to date.
And even with a air-tight starting rotation (2.47 ERA), the Braves (17-12) are still fortunate to be sitting atop the NL East standings (by 1/2 game). It's very rare for any MLB club to endure 12 straight games of five runs or less ... and still come away smelling like a rose.
But that's life in the skittish NL East.
2a. Give the Braves offense partial credit for having symmetry on this night
Seven strikeouts (with Justin Upton, Gattis and Chris Johnson tallying two apiece) ... and seven runners stranded on base.
These are the telltale signs of an offense that may be pressing at the plate.
"We had (three or four guys) who were swinging wayyyyy out of the strike zone," said Gonzalez, without identifying the culprits.
3. For what it's worth, the 2013 Braves never lost five or more consecutive outings
These are the spoils of intimately watching a rock-steady club perform every night. The starting rotation and back-end relievers are so strong, so consistent, that it's actual news when a Braves mini-slide carries over into the next series.
Simply put, Atlanta doesn't have time to tread water through the next few weeks; it's either flourish or risk falling behind the Senior Circuit's premier clubs.
For the rest of May, the Braves have four games with the Giants (19-11, 1st in NL West), six with the Cardinals, four with the Brewers (MLB-best record of 21-10), three with the hot-hitting Rockies, four with the defending champion Red Sox and another trip to Miami -- which always has the looming threat of a Jose Fernandez wrecking-ball start.
The only breather of this meat-grinder month comes with a caveat: The lowly Cubs (11-17) will likely have Jeff Samardzija on the mound next Sunday -- the same Samardzija who boasts a 1.98 ERA through six starts ... but without an official victory to show for it.
In other words, Samardzija's due for a win (much) sooner than later.