Newcomb’s rest pivotal for Braves vs. Rays
ATLANTA — Atlanta left-hander Sean Newcomb has been worn down by his first full season in the major leagues. That’s why the club has given him an additional day of rest between his most recent starts, a tactic that’s help the youngster regain his effectiveness.
Newcomb (11-6, 3.57 ERA) will be on the mound for the Braves Wednesday when they complete their two-game series against Tampa Bay at SunTrust Park. Tampa Bay had not announced its starting pitcher on Tuesday night.
The Braves won the first game of the series on Tuesday and improved to 3-0 against Tampa this season. Atlanta won 9-5 and broke Tampa Bay’s eight-game winning streak. The victory improved Atlanta’s record to 74-57 and extended their lead in the National League East to 4 1/2 games.
Tampa Bay (70-62) remains a long shot to make the playoffs — the Rays are nine games out of the second wild car spot — but manager Kevin Cash isn’t too concerned with the standings.
“I’m more concerned with we’re playing the Braves,” he said. “And then we’re playing the Indians. Two first-place clubs. We just got done playing the Red Sox. This is a very challenging part of the schedule. We’re going to have to play really good baseball to come up with a successful road trip.”
After giving up a combined 12 runs in successive starts, Newcomb was given five days of rest and responded with six shutout innings against the Marlins. It slowed the damage he has suffered this month, when his ERA is 5.48 and he has allowed 13 runs in 21 1/3 innings.
Newcomb made one appearance against the Rays on April 8 and fired six shutout innings with six strikeouts.
“The changeup being good has been a big help,” Newcomb said. “It’s starting to be something to keep guys off my fastball.”
The Braves will try a way to cool off Tampa third baseman Matt Duffy. He has hit safely in six straight games and went 2-for-5 in the series opener. During his hitting streak, Duffy is hitting .461 (12-for-26) and has multiple hits in five of his last six games.
Left fielder Tommy Pham has been hot, too, since returning from the disabled list with a dislocated finger. He went 3-for-5 on Tuesday and is hitting .472 (9-for-19) over his last four games.
Tampa Bay will try to find an answer for Atlanta center fielder Ender Inciarte. He was 4-for-4 on Tuesday and hit his ninth homer, his second in the last week. Inciarte is batting .533 (8-for-15) over his last four games.
“We need him to come through for us as much as he can,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said.
Tampa Bay added right-handed pitcher Andrew Kittredge to the roster when ex-Braves outfielder Mallex Smith went on the disabled list with a viral infection. Smith left the hospital and was able to run and work out in Tampa on Tuesday.
The Braves are on the verge of getting right-handed reliever Shane Carle back from the disabled list. He was sent to Triple-A Gwinnett for a rehab appearance after missing 21 games with right shoulder inflammation. Veteran right-hander Brandon McCarthy is also close to returning from the disabled list.