Homers doom Morales as Rox go quiet, drop series
Lefty serves up three blasts; lineup strands six in shutout
ATLANTA -- As pitch after pitch soared into the sunny sky above Turner Field on Sunday afternoon, so did Franklin Morales' ERA. He surrendered a season-high three homers in a season-worst 4 2/3 innings as the Rockies fell to the Braves, 7-0.
Colorado was shut out for just the second time in 2014 and has not won a series in Atlanta since 2005. The club also now ranks second in the Majors with 16 road losses and has fallen a season-worst five games out of first place in the National League West.
"This Atlanta club hits the ball in the seats," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "That's what they do. That's what they did last year. They put big innings together by hitting the ball out of the park. You've got to try to keep them in the park."
The Braves hammered Morales, but the Rockies' sputtering offense came away also to blame. Atlanta starter Julio Teheran threw his second straight scoreless outing, shutting down Colorado through six innings despite the return of Carlos Gonzalez. The Rockies have been limited to nine runs in six road games since beating the Reds, 11-2, on May 10.
"I don't know," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said of what is so good about Teheran, who ranks second in the Majors with a 1.77 ERA. "Help me out. Go ask him."
On paper, Morales made it through the first three innings with little issue. The only hit he surrendered was an Evan Gattis solo home run, which came on a two-seam fastball Morales left out over the middle of the plate.
But once the fourth inning began, Morales began to pay for getting six of his first nine outs on fly balls. After issuing a one-out walk to Justin Upton, Gattis again took Morales deep.
All Gonzalez could do was turn to look at the ball as the 0-1 slider sailed over his head and into the stands for Gattis' third career multi-homer game.
Morales simply said, "They got me."
Two more flyouts later in the fifth, Upton ended Morales' day by smacking a 2-2 curveball over the wall in left field to bring Atlanta's run total to five and mark the fifth time Morales has given up four earned runs or more in his past six starts.
Morales has given up 11 homers, which ranks as the second-most in the NL, and his 5.65 ERA is the worst in the NL among qualified pitchers.
"Make my pitch and location and attack the hitter," said Morales of how he needs to improve. "I tried to do [that] today with my fastball. I tried to attack the hitter and use both sides of the plate, but sometimes, I miss my spot and that's why I got hit."
But Morales was not alone in surrendering long shots as Nick Masset gave up a two-run home run to Chris Johnson in the eighth, adding onto the Sunday rout.
The Rockies could have softened the blow of Morales' tough day had they taken advantage of some early offense against Teheran. They put runners in scoring position in the first and second innings, but Teheran slammed the door each time and retired 14 of the final 15 batters he faced.
Teheran could tell the Rockies were sitting on his slider early, so he began to mix in his fastball. Once Colorado grew accustomed to that, he went back to his slider.
"I knew I was making pitches and they were just swinging," Teheran said. "After that, I was just trying to play my game. That's what I did the rest of the game."
The name of the Braves right-hander's game on Sunday was efficiency. After throwing 32 strikes on 39 pitches in the first two innings, he fired 40 strikes in 53 pitches in his final four innings on the hill.
Teheran would have thrown seven fewer pitches had Atlanta second baseman Tyler Pastornicky not botched a DJ LeMahieu grounder in the top of the second inning that would have likely resulted in an inning-ending double play."
"That's what makes him good. He throws a lot of strikes," Weiss said. "There's some deception with his delivery, but he commands all his pitches and throws [them] for strikes."
Tulowitzki added: "He's good. Obviously, his numbers speak for themselves. He's been good his last couple of starts, I know that. He's tough."
Colorado's best chance came in the top of the first when Charlie Blackmon and Michael Cuddyer ripped back-to-back singles. Following a Tulowitzki popout to shallow left field, Gonzalez appeared to put an exclamation point on his comeback.
The left fielder smacked a moon shot to deep right field that ultimately ran foul, mere feet away from the foul pole. He later fouled out to left, contributing to the Rockies' 0-for-5 line with runners in scoring position on the day.
"We had a couple of opportunities early," Weiss said. "I think we left four on the first couple of innings and after that, [Teheran] settled in pretty well."