Three Cuts: Braves loss caps historically bad road trip

Julio Teheran gave up six runs and nine hits in six innings of work as the Atlanta Braves fell to the Seattle Mariners Wednesday, extending their losing streak to eight games.

Joe Nicholson

The Atlanta Braves scored three runs in the top of the third inning, and took a 3-1 lead in the early stages of Wednesday’s game. But the Braves didn’t hold onto that lead for long.

A leadoff home run in the bottom of the third inning from Dustin Ackley cut into the 3-1 deficit. Then two, two-out singles were followed by a Logan Morrison three-run blast to cap off a four-run third. The Mariners had a 5-3 lead, and never looked back, winning the game 7-3 after adding a few insurance runs.

Here are three observations from Atlanta’s eighth consecutive loss (all on the road):

The last time the Braves lost eight games in a row on the road, the franchise was in Boston, the Braves were a National League team and the year was 1949.

The Boston Braves lost four on the road to the Philadelphia Phillies, and then were handled by the Brooklyn Dodgers four times. The Braves lost somewhat close games to Philadelphia, two by one run, and the team dropped the entire series by a combined 11 runs.

Brooklyn mauled the Braves, winning by a combined 25 runs, and twice putting a double-digit run total on the board.

Outside of losing eight consecutive games on the road, and the Dodgers being a common thread in both streaks, there weren’t too many other similarities.

In 1949, the Braves scored four runs per game (32 total) during their losing streak. They were outscored 68-32 as the Phillies and Dodgers put up 8.5 runs per game. The Braves of 2014 only scored 18 runs over eight games (2.25 runs per game), and were outscored 41-18. This year’s team allowed 5.1 runs per game to its three opponents, the Dodgers (0-3), San Diego Padres (0-3) and the Mariners (0-2).

Since the Braves moved, this 0-8 West Coast swing has been the worst road trip in the history of the Atlanta Braves.

After a much-needed off day Thursday, Atlanta starts a 10-game homestand against the Washington Nationals, the Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics. All three are currently first-place teams in their divisions.

One final look back at the ’49 team that went 0-8 on its road trip: Those Braves lost their first game at home after the trip, a 3-1 loss to the Phillies. After that, the Braves beat Philadelphia to end the losing streak, and then lost the next four games.

The Braves did not make the postseason in 1949.

Julio Teheran is without a doubt the Braves’ ace of the staff.

He entered Wednesday’s game as the only Atlanta starter with more than 10 starts with a sub 3.00 ERA, his 1.07 WHIP was closer-like, and his 146 strikeouts were 22 whiffs more than the next guy on staff.

The Braves were counting on Teheran to put an end to this losing streak before the plane took off for Atlanta. And with his recent track record, it was easy to imagine a win.

In Teheran’s last three starts, he’d struck out 25 batters in 21 innings, and only walked four. He’d also gone toe-to-toe in a complete-game matchup with arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. Teheran didn’t win that game, but he pitched well, giving up two runs and five hits over eight innings.

But Atlanta’s ace couldn’t stop the bleeding on Wednesday. He gave up six runs and nine hits over six innings, and had a disastrous third inning.

Down a run entering the third, Atlanta loaded the bases with one out. Tommy La Stella walked to bring in a run, and Freddie Freeman doubled to center field to bring in two more. But that 3-1 lead would be short-lived.

Teheran gave up a solo shot to Ackley to start the bottom of the third, and then three two-out hits: two singles (Kyle Seager and Chris Taylor), and Morrison’s three-run bomb.

"We didn’t get a shutdown with one of our best pitchers on the mound," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after the game. Whether he was speaking about a shutdown inning (the third) or an entire performance is unknown, but both seem applicable.

Teheran left a lot of pitches up in the strike zone on Wednesday. And when he was sloppy and missed his location, he missed in the zone, which led to nine Seattle hits. But the loss doesn’t lie solely on Teheran’s shoulders.

Three hitters–La Stella, Justin Upton and Chris Johnson–failed to get a hit, going a combined 0 for 12 with six strikeouts (four from Upton, two from Johnson). The Braves left eight runners on base, and after their three-run third inning, only three runners landed in scoring position.

Atlanta also had trouble in momentum-building situations. The Braves struck out seven times with runners on base, four times to end an inning with at least one runner on.

The Mariners already had one of the best bullpens in baseball. In fact, their 2.36 ERA entering Wednesday’s game was the best in the majors.

When Felix Hernandez pitched eight strong innings on Tuesday, he gave Seattle’s bullpen enough rest for manager Lloyd McClendon to strategically use his relief staff on Wednesday.

Seattle starter Chris Young pitched the minimum number of innings to qualify for a win, and then handed the ball to Joe Beimel, who started a revolving door on the mound that ushered out a total of five relief pitchers in four innings.

The lefty Beimel came in to face Jason Heyward. When Heyward singled, Beimel gave way to Tom Wilhelmsen to face a slew of right-handed batters. McClendon was able to trot pitchers to the mound to take the advantage. Lefties came in to pitch to lefties, and twice the Mariners made multiple pitching changes in an inning.

That’s what’s great about a rested bullpen. Seattle’s five relievers combined for four innings, and gave up no runs, three hits and struck out four batters.

Atlanta couldn’t get anything going in the late innings because Seattle was in a position to match any move the Braves made.