Three Cuts: Braves lose another marathon tilt, fall to Phillies in 13

Atlanta’s first six innings belonged to Philly pitcher Cole Hamels, who allowed just three hits and faced 21 total batters during that span.

Things turned slightly in the Braves’ favor in the 7th, beginning with an Evan Gattis single (more on that later), a Justin Upton double (moving Gattis to third) and a Chris Johnson hits batsman to load the bases with zero outs.

For that scenario, the Braves’ statistical odds of pushing across one run had to be in the 95-percent range. Especially with Tommy La Stella (batting .407 at the time) and Andrelton Simmons preceding pitcher Julio Teheran at the plate.

But La Stella lined out to third base and Simmons sharply hit into a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play to the end the inning.

The Braves finally broke through in the 9th, thanks to Simmons’ seeing-eye, bloop single with one out, scoring Justin Upton from second base. For a brief flash, it appeared Upton wouldn’t be able to score on the hit, given the ball’s inordinate amount of air time.

This allowed Freeman to easily reach third base and be in position to score the game-winning run.

Looking at the replay, it’s entirely possible Brown thought Freeman’s blast was a home run. His blank stare into the Turner Field stands was priceless.

But alas, Freeman and Gattis (intentional walk) would be stranded on the base paths, marking the Braves’ best and final chance at pulling out the victory.

Two innings later, with David Hale getting the ball in the relief, the Phillies paraded around the base paths, collecting three hits and two walks and scoring five runs to ice the game.

For good measure, Philly (30-38) benefited from a crucial Freeman error with one out, allowing Ben Revere to score the eventual game-winner.

The latter innings were a daunting time for the Braves (36-33, 1st place in National League East) and skipper Fredi Gonzalez, knowing his bullpen already had limited availability before Luis Avilan, Shae Simmons, Jordan Walden, David Carpenter (exited with "discomfort" in this throwing arm), Anthony Varvaro and the aforementioned Hale took the mound after starter Julio Teheran.

The offense’s lack of timely killer instinct didn’t help matters, either.

"I’m not frustrated, because I know how much these guys come out and work," said Gonzalez, always the picture of optimism before and after games.

On the heels of his worst outing in a long time (seven runs, 10 hits allowed vs. Colorado on June 11), Teheran responded with a scintillating effort against the Phillies, surrendering just one run and four hits over eight efficient innings.

Teheran’s lone mistake of the evening entailed Ryan Howard belting a waist-high fastball (1-1 count) over the center-field wall in the second inning (leadoff hitter).

It also represented Howard’s 45th career blast vs. Atlanta — the most against any other opponent in his decorated career (19th at Turner Field).

Teheran has his All-Star campaign back on track. Heading into this start, he was enjoying top-15 fame among National League pitchers with victories (six), WHIP (0.97), opponents’ batting average (.209) and strikeouts (79 — now 85).

Which brings us to this: If we had to guess the National League’s automatic All-Star starting pitchers right now … we’d roll with Johnny Cueto (1.85 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 109/22 K-BB), Adam Wainwright (9-3, 2.15 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 91/21 K-BB), Stephen Strasburg (3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 113/20 K-BB), Madison Bumgarner (8-4 2.85 ERA, 104/23 K-BB), former Brave Tim Hudson (7-2, 1.81 ERA, 0.97 WHIP), Zack Greinke (8-3, 2.65 ERA, 92/18 K-BB), Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 71/8 K-BB) and the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija (2.77 ERA, 82/26 K-BB).

That presumably leaves one open starter spot from the talented cluster of Teheran, Gerrit Cole (Pirates), Jason Hammel (Cubs), Alfredo Simon (Reds), Shelby Miller (Cardinals), Ian Kennedy (Padres), Aaron Harang (Braves) and Josh Becket (Dodgers).

Of the last 40 years, notable catchers Javy Lopez (214 homers, 1,148 hits), Brian McCann (176 homers, 1,070 hits) and Bruce Benedict (12 seasons with Atlanta) have accounted for 408 home runs and more than 2,900 hits with the Braves.

Unreal.

On Monday, Gattis’s leadoff single against Hamels (six strikeouts vs. Atlanta) in the 7th bumped the hit streak to a landmark 16 consecutive games.

Can you believe it? The Braves franchise has been around since 1876 (originally as the Boston Red Stockings) … and Gattis now holds its all-time team record for that category, among backstops.