Three Cuts: Braves thump Reds behind another big inning
AUG 21, 2014 10:47p ET
So much for the Braves' Great American Ballpark woes.
After dropping 18 of the last 25 games at the home of the Reds, Atlanta broke out with a five-run third inning, and backed by a gem from Julio Teheran, cruised to an 8-0 win Thursday.
While it has them within striking distance for a wild-card spot, it also kept pace with the surging Nationals, who have won 10 straight -- including five walk-off victories in the last six -- and maintain a 6 1/2-game lead on the Braves in the National League East.
Here are three observations from Atlanta's win:
1. Braves fueled by another prolific inning
During that third-inning outburst, Atlanta sent 11 men to the plate -- which, incredibly, included just one extra-base hit (Chris Johnson's RBI double) and B.J. Upton's second intentional walk in a Braves uniform and just the third since 2011 -- and in the process ballooned struggling Reds starter David Holmberg's ERA to 18.56.
It also continued a trend of big frames out of the this lineup.
Atlanta opened its series against the Pirates on Monday with a six-run first, then a day later hit a five-run fifth in its 11-3 victory. Coupled with Thursday's eruption, that's three games with an inning of five or more runs in four games.
It's a string of runs on this current 10-game road trip that's staggering considering that in the previous 124 days on the schedule the Braves had produced all of five games with an inning of five or more, and they had yet to do it post-All-Star break before Monday.
It should come as no surprise that Atlanta is now 9-0 on the season when they produce an inning of at least five runs in a game. They're also 41-15 when they score first, something they've done in each victory on this road swing.
While Justin Upton extended his hitting streak to 13 games Thursday, one shy of his longest in an Atlanta uniform and Freddie Freeman (.378 since Aug. 2) have been hot, it's Jason Heyward that has been the catalyst of this recent run.
Beginning with Monday's leadoff home run, he's gone 7 for 14 (.500) with five RBI. That only underscores his effectiveness since returning to the leadoff spot, where he's now 12 for 37 (.324) with six RBI in nine games and in that span, Atlanta is 7-2.
2. While Offense steals the show, Teheran simply dominant
The last time Teheran faced the Reds was April 27, when he threw eight scoreless innings of three-hit ball with five strikeouts and two walks.
The 23-year-old was at it again, allowing zero runs and four hits through six innings -- and for the first time in his last five starts, he didn't walk anyone.
That final stat is what was so crucial for Teheran (12-9), because after getting staked a massive lead with that third-run eruption, he never stopped attacking.
He didn't allow a runner or a hit until a third inning that saw Teheran hit Reds second baseman Ramon Santiago and give up a single to Pedro Villarreal, and no Cincinnati player reached second base before Brandon Phillips doubled in the sixth.
Teheran's performance was a contrast to Monday's starter Ervin Santana, who given a 6-0 lead, exited with the Pirates having cut it in half with the tying run at the plate.
That Teheran never let up in paving the way for the Braves' first shutout win since beating the Padres 2-0 on July 28, was impressive, but it may be a byproduct of the fact that he came in getting an average of 3.3 runs of support a game. That's below the MLB average of 4.0.
Nonetheless, Teheran delivered on the road, something he's struggled with this season. He entered Cincinnati with a 4.27 ERA and 6-7 record in 13 road starts and was tagged for six runs and nine hits by the Mariners in his last start away from Turner Field on Aug. 6.
3. Braves owning the NL Central
While Atlanta continues its pursuit of the Nationals in the East, here's something to ponder: how much would this Braves team love life in the Central?
Thursday's win moved them to 4-0 against the Reds this season and ran their record vs. the division to 18-8.
By comparison, the Cardinals rank second with a 30-19 mark and Atlanta's .692 winning percentage is the best of anyone against a single division, with only the Angels at .678 (19-9) against the American League Central challenging the Braves.
It should bode well for the Reds then that they get two more game against Cincinnati in this series, then face the Pirates for a four-game set Sept. 22-25.