ATLANTA -- Sean Newcomb will have more opportunities to further his development and provide indication whether he should be viewed as a long-term fit within the Braves' rotation. But to realize his tremendous potential, the young hurler must avoid the early jitters that preceded the regrettable pitch he threw to
ATLANTA -- Sean Newcomb will have more opportunities to further his development and provide indication whether he should be viewed as a long-term fit within the Braves' rotation. But to realize his tremendous potential, the young hurler must avoid the early jitters that preceded the regrettable pitch he threw to Bryce Harper in Monday night's 8-1 loss to the Nationals at SunTrust Park.
"He just couldn't get anything going," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He was missing a lot arm-side and just never really got anything good going offspeed. They were just hitting them where it was pitched. He just wasn't real sharp."
The Braves opened the season by winning two of three against the Phillies. But they really never challenged during this first game against the Nationals, who are 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. Washington has had a lead at the conclusion of each of the first 36 innings played this season.
"When their offense started on the right foot and started scoring runs, it looked like we shut down," Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte said. "We've got to have the same mentality and try to score runs right away. [Nationals starter Tanner Roark] was throwing strikes and we just couldn't get on base against him."
While Roark cruised through seven innings, allowing just one run, Newcomb faltered during a 37-pitch first frame that was plagued by two costly errors. The young southpaw saw his two-run, first-inning deficit increase when Harper drilled a three-run homer in the second on a first-pitch fastball that was in his wheelhouse.
"I was trying to come in more, even in off [the plate]," said Newcomb, who allowed six runs (five earned) over 4 1/3 innings. "It was just middle, middle and low, right where he swings."
Newcomb struggled with his fastball command, but it's worth noting two of his four walks were issued to Harper, who hit his first two homers of the season during Sunday's win over the Reds. The Braves' lefty threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 13 batters faced within the first two innings, but he was not able to take advantage with what was an inconsistent curveball or his changeup, which wasn't effective until his outing neared an end.
Given he has made just 20 big league starts, Newcomb is still in the early stages of what could still be a promising career. But with talented prospects like Mike Soroka standing as potential rotation additions at some point this year, the once-promising prospect, who was acquired in exchange for Andrelton Simmons, may soon have to prove he can be a consistent asset.
"There are going to be those nights," Snitker said. "Hopefully, he can learn from that; that it's not going to be spot on all the time. You still have to make pitches and figure out a way more than anything. He'll be better the next time. It's a constant learning experience for him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Early errors:Freddie Freeman fumbled Turner's grounder to open the game. After issuing consecutive walks to Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, Newcomb delivered a center-cut fastball that Howie Kendrick drilled against the brick wall in right field. Harper paused to make sure Nick Markakis did not catch the ball that caromed back toward the infield. Inciarte's throw to the plate was in time to retire Harper, but catcher Chris Stewart dropped the ball.
"If I recall, I was trying to go in there [to Kendrick]," Newcomb said. "He just got extended. I thought it was a fly ball. Markakis got pretty close, but it got off the wall. I looked at it as I got a couple ground balls and a fly ball. It really wasn't too bad, but on paper, it got away."
Squandered opportunity: When Kendrick dropped Dansby Swanson's long drive to left center field, the Braves had two in scoring position with none out in the fifth. But Flaherty, who had recorded eight hits in his previous 14 at-bats, silenced the threat by striking out. Roark then retired Stewart and pinch hitter Lane Adams to escape unscathed.
"[Roark] competes," Snitker said. "He knows what he is doing. He can change speeds. He's just a real good pitcher. He's a fundamentally sound guy."
"It's not only with the first pitch. I need to stay competitive in the zone. There were a lot of up arm-side fastballs and a handful of bad curveballs that got me into a bad groove. It was just a good lineup that took advantage when I was in the zone." -- Newcomb
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Freeman has drawn eight walks. Dating back to 1908, Eddie Mathews (1955) is the only other Braves player to draw that many through the season's first four games.
Julio Teheran will take the mound Tuesday when the Braves and Nationals resume their three-game series. Teheran enters with a 19-inning scoreless streak against the Nats. He completed at least seven innings and allowed two runs or fewer in each of his final three starts against them last year. First pitch is set for 7:35 p.m. ET.
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Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.