Bruce’s 15th homer of the season provided some early comfort for Finnegan, who scattered four hits and pitched around three walks to allow just one run over six innings. The Reds’ southpaw has allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his first 14 starts this season.
“It really is the tale of that first inning,” Reds manager Bryan Price said, “And Joey [Votto] grinding out a great at-bat to get a walk, Brandon [Phillips] in another great at-bat lines a single to left, and then Jay getting the one really costly mistake Teheran made tonight for a three-run homer. After that, he just simply shut us down.”
Teheran allowed just three hits and three runs while recording eight strikeouts over seven innings. The right-hander was nearly flawless after allowing his sixth home run in a 12-inning span, dating back to the fourth inning of his June 3 start against the Dodgers. But for the 13th time in 14 starts this season, the Braves provided their ace three runs or fewer of support.
With closer Tony Cingrani unavailable after appearing in four of the Reds’ last five games, the Braves loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth against Blake Wood, who notched his only previous save in 2011. Wood was able to escape when A.J. Pierzynski struck out and Mallex Smith grounded into a game-ending double play to drop Atlanta’s batting average with the bases loaded to .211 (11-for-52).
“It’s just a tough stretch for everybody, because everybody wants to come through,” Smith said. “All the pitchers are doing everything to keep us in games. But sometimes, that’s just how the cookie crumbles in baseball.”
One day after giving his team a 1-0 lead with a first-inning triple, Bruce set the tone once again on Tuesday, this time with a three-run homer to right-center field. The home run marked his sixth in his past 14 games. During that stretch, the right fielder is batting .308 (16-for-52) with 18 RBIs and 12 extra-base hits.
“We used to talk about when Jay gets on one of those hot streaks, and he’d go for 10-14 days just tearing the cover off the ball, hitting homers and doubles, and really wreaking havoc,” Price said. “And then he’d have a down spell and come back up. Here it’s just been more of a consistent player offensively. His defense has been good, he’s throwing extremely well.
“But from an offensive standpoint, he’s given us good at-bats, not swinging at a lot of pitches outside the zone. And when he gets a mistake, he’s doing some damage.”
If in the first you don’t succeed…: Teheran retired 20 of the final 22 batters he faced and didn’t allow the Reds to produce a baserunner after the first inning until Kyle Waldrop recorded his first career double with one out in the seventh inning. But the Braves right-hander, who has now produced a 2.13 ERA over his past 11 starts, ended up paying for the walk and single he surrendered in the first inning ahead of the home run Bruce hit after falling behind with a 0-2 count.
“[Teheran] settled in and was outstanding,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He had two strikes on the two guys that got on base before [Bruce] hit the homer. But after that, God almighty, he was nails. … We just couldn’t get the big hit.”
The Braves threatened to cut into the Reds’ 3-0 lead in the third inning after Finnegan surrendered a one-out walk to Chase d’Arnaud and hit Freddie Freeman with a 90-mph sinker on the ensuing pitch. Jeff Francoeur advanced both runners into scoring position with his groundout to short, but Finnegan escaped the inning unscathed after inducing a groundout by Nick Markakis. Opposing teams are batting .211 (15-for-71) against Finnegan with runners in scoring position.
“You’re not always going to have your best stuff and your arm’s not always going to feel the best, but the big part is to go out there and battle,” Finnegan said. “That’s what we as a staff want to do every time we go out there, is just keep us in the game. Luckily, I was able to do that tonight.”
Minimal opportunities: The Braves stranded five runners through the first three innings before getting on the board in the fourth. Adonis Garcia singled, stole second base and raced home when the Reds threw to first base on Teheran’s sacrifice bunt. Freeman was hit by a pitch twice for the third time in his career. The second instance led off the bottom of the eighth, but Francoeur followed it up by grounding into a double play.
“Maybe [Finnegan] was effectively wild,” Snitker said. “It’s just a hit here or there in the last three, four or five games. We get guys on and just can’t pierce a gap and make something really good happen.”
Bud Norris will attempt to extend his unexpected success as of late, as he matches up against Anthony DeSclafani on Wednesday. Norris spent a month in the bullpen after producing an 8.74 ERA over five April starts, but the veteran right-hander has bounced back, allowing just two runs over the 12 innings he’s totaled in starts against the Dodgers and Cubs this month. Thunder Radio will bring you the broadcast of the game beginning at 6 PM as part of the Atlanta Braves Radio Network.