The Braves used home runs from Matt Kemp and Kurt Suzuki in the first two innings off starting pitcher Chad Bettis to send the contending, but reeling Rockies to a 5-2 loss at SunTrust Park on Friday night.
Kemp’s 15th homer this season was a two-run shot after Bettis had walked Freddie Freeman with two down in the first inning. Suzuki led off the Braves’ three-run second with his 15th homer.
The Rockies are in the second National League Wild Card position, but have lost 12 of their last 17, and have scored fewer than four runs in 12 of those games.
“We’ve talked about that for a while now, that a guy here or there has a good night and has a couple hits, but we can’t bunch them together,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “At least in one inning, get multiple hits and good at-bats. That’s hard to come by.”
Friday’s run-suppression came from Braves starter Julio Teheran (aka “JT” for Players Weekend), who went 7 1/3 innings, struck out four and held the Rockies to two runs on five hits, including Mark Reynolds’ 27th homer, a solo shot in the seventh. Teheran threw 69 of his 88 pitches for strikes and exited partly because his legs began to cramp in the eighth. He earned his first home win since April 14, in the first game ever played at the Braves’ new park.
“It was nice for [Teheran] to get some early runs,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Tonight was really good with how efficient he was. He kept the ball down and his breaking ball was good. He did a really good job of being aggressive.”
Before giving up a run in the third, Teheran had held the Rockies scoreless for 20 straight innings.
“He’s been terrific against the Rockies his entire career,” Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez said. “He’s got great pitches, knows how to mix it.”
Also, Rockies center fielder and Atlanta-area native Charlie Blackmon (aka “Chuck Nasty,”) left after an apparent leg injury he sustained while fouling off a pitch in the seventh. Blackmon, who leads the National League in batting, went 1-for-4 with an RBI to finish the night at .337.
“To get those two runs on the board, I think that was a big step because we’ve been chasing a little bit the past couple days,” Suzuki said. “To get on top and have Julio throw the way he did, he was pretty much identical to what he was in Colorado [on Aug. 14], it made for a nice win tonight.”
On Aug. 14, Bettis held the Braves scoreless for seven innings in his first appearance of this season, after a long recovery from testicular cancer. But he wasn’t sharp in the beginning in this one, and Kemp made him pay by swatting a first-pitch, 90 mph fastball over the center-field wall.
“Their whole approach the first three innings was different from what I saw the last game, and I had to flip-flop the game plan there,” Bettis said. “Even if they were hunting fastballs, those need to be a little bit better executed, anyway.”
In his final three innings, before being removed in a grasp at offense, Bettis saw his fastball reach the 92 mph range — his average before his illness. He left with five runs and six hits (four in the first two innings) in five innings.
Trevor Story doubled and scored on Blackmon’s one-out single in the third, but Teheran — who also threw seven scoreless innings against Bettis and the Rockies but got a no-decision in that Aug. 14 game — snuffed out the threat. Teheran forced Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu into his 20th double-play grounder this season.
JT’s slider wasn’t as effective as it was two weeks ago in Colorado, but as he’s regained more confidence in the pitch, it has at least again become another valuable weapon within his arsenal.
“It’s working, I know I made a couple mistakes today with it,” Teheran said. “But that’s normal. I’m not throwing [the slider] that hard, but I think it’s keeping them off-balance and that’s why we won.”
Sean Newcomb (2-7, 4.13 ERA), will take the mound when this series resumes Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Newcomb allowed three earned runs over six innings against the Rockies on Aug. 15.