Beachy struggles in first start since Tommy John
Righty allows seven runs, including two homers, over 3 2/3 innings
ATLANTA -- Brandon Beachy would not accept any flaws in his long-awaited return from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery as the natural byproducts of spending more than 13 months away from a Major League mound.
When he left his start on June 16 of last season with recurring elbow soreness that would lead to Tommy John surgery, Beachy saw the breakout first half to his second full season in the Majors cut short. His 2.00 ERA in 13 starts was the lowest among qualifying starting pitchers at the time, and he had given up more than two earned runs in only one of those 13 starts.
In his first outing since that surgery, his final line on Monday against the Rockies conveyed next to nothing of that pre-injury form. Beachy allowed seven earned runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings with five strikeouts in what was a harsh reintroduction to Major League offenses.
After the Braves exploded for six runs in the bottom of the third to rally from the early hole and take a 6-5 lead, Beachy's final two runs allowed in the fourth left his team working from behind again.
"I'm not going to chalk this up to part of the process," Beachy said. "I pitched poorly and really let the guys down after they came back and got me that lead. That's not acceptable, no matter what the circumstances are."
With the welcome diversion of a walk-off victory to ease the mood of the clubhouse after the Braves' 9-8, 10-inning win on Monday night, manager Fredi Gonzalez was in a better position to preach patience with his right-handed starter, a luxury Beachy hesitated to grant himself.
"I'm not even going to evaluate his first outing," Gonzalez said. "It's like coming out of Spring Training for him, maybe even worse because it's Tommy John. We'll see how he feels tomorrow, throw him a side, and go get 'em in five days."
Beachy's night started with a called strike on a 92-mph fastball, but it was all downhill from there. Leadoff man Dexter Fowler lined the next pitch into the right-field corner for a double and came around to score two batters later.
After three additional runs came across in a 29-pitch third inning and two hanging sliders were punished for solo home runs, Beachy received one final earned run when DJ LeMahieu scored on David Carpenter's wild pitch after ending Beachy's night with a two-out single in the fourth.
"I feel good physically," Beachy said. "I just need to refine the offspeed, especially. I was ahead in a lot of counts and felt I was this close to getting out of some situations and they were fouling pitches off. When I made a mistake, they capitalized."
Among the positives Beachy could take away from Monday's performance was his clean bill of health and the success of his fastball. He also coaxed 11 swinging strikes out of Rockies hitters, just one swing-and-miss shy of the most he had registered in all of 2012.
"I feel like I'm right there," Beachy said. "I'm confident going into my next one. I'm not looking to do this again. It's just something I'll work on in my bullpen -- get some of those breaking balls a little sharper down in the zone when it matters."
With the win, the Braves moved a full nine games clear of second place in the National League East to soften the less-than-stellar debut of a pitcher expected to play an important role in their stretch-run rotation.
Knowing the experiences of the team's numerous former Tommy John patients, Beachy seemed to understand each outing from here on as another step toward recapturing the high standard of dominance that set the league buzzing in the early months of last season.
"It's a lot better feeling standing here talking to you now, knowing that we got a win and did it in dramatic fashion," Beachy said. "That's a lot of fun. It would be a lot more sour had we not gotten those runs back. At the same time, I look at it like when this offense puts up eight or nine runs in nine innings, there should be no doubt."