Teheran dazzles, Braves flex muscles to capture series
Gattis hits two of club's four homers; righty tosses six shutout frames
ATLANTA -- A virus prevented Evan Gattis from sticking around to partake in the gem Julio Teheran tossed against the Brewers last week. But when the young Braves ace returned to the mound on Sunday afternoon, he saw his re-energized catcher make up for lost time in an authoritative manner.
Having distanced himself from the fever and nausea that sidelined him most of last week, Gattis displayed his raw power by accounting for two of the four home runs that provided sufficient support for Teheran, who proved stellar yet again in a 7-0 win over a potent Rockies club that spent this weekend being subdued by Atlanta's pitching staff.
"I got my strength back or got lucky, whatever," said Gattis, who spent this past week taking antibiotics to fight the virus that depleted him of much of his energy.
With Gattis, Justin Upton and Chris Johnson accounting for the four home run, the Braves offered more than enough support for Teheran, who allowed four hits while totaling 93 pitches over six scoreless innings. This is exactly what the Braves wanted from their 23-year-old ace, who had thrown a career-high 128 pitches while tossing a six-hit shutout against the Brewers on Tuesday.
"After a complete game the last time out, we wanted to keep him right where he was today," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We didn't want to keep running him out there and having him throw pitches this early in the season. That worked out perfectly. You couldn't ask for a better outing out of him."
On the way to winning for the sixth time in their past eight games, the Braves displayed the strength of their pitching staff, which owns a Major League-best 2.78 ERA. The Rockies, who have averaged an MLB-best 5.1 runs per game, totaled just five runs during the series.
With Anthony Varvaro and Luis Avilan combining to preserve Teheran's effort in scoreless fashion, the Braves notched their eighth shutout win of the season against the Rockies, who had been blanked just once previously this season.
"I was just happy to get a win over the Rockies, the way they've been swinging the bats," Gattis said. "To get a shutout is just icing on the cake."
Gattis opened the scoring with a second-inning solo home run and then capped his third career multi-homer performance with a two-run shot off Rockies starting pitcher Franklin Morales in the fourth inning. Upton plated two more runs with a fifth-inning home run that chased Morales before Johnson capped the power barrage with another two-run shot in the eighth inning.
Sunday marked the second time this season that the Braves hit at least four home runs in a game. They totaled five in Philadelphia on April 14, the same day Gattis notched his other two-homer game.
"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."
Despite missing four games this week, Gattis has still hit three more home runs (10) than any other big league catcher this season. He entered Sunday having hit .150 with no homers in his previous seven games.
"Everybody struggles no matter how good of a hitter you are," Gonzalez said. "But his swing is short, quick and he's so strong. Sometimes, he's the one who gets himself out. There really aren't that many moving parts to his swing. Everybody struggles. But he can regain it quickly."
After sending a pitch foul over the left-field wall, Gattis sent the next pitch -- a 90-mph fastball -- over the center-field wall for his first home run of the day. The burly catcher also followed Upton's one-out walk in the fourth by lining an 81-mph slider over the left-field wall.
Upton got into the long-ball act when he followed Freddie Freeman's two-out walk in the fifth inning by crushing a curveball over the left-field wall. The two-run shot accounted for the latest of the 10 home runs Upton has hit through 93 at-bats at Turner Field this year.
"Maybe when we go on the road, we'll just wear [home] white uniforms and trick him that way," Gonzalez said. "But he's a special talent and he can [produce] those kinds of numbers anywhere really."
The same can be said of Teheran, who has completed 15 consecutive scoreless innings since he struggled to gain a grip of the baseball during a miserable 3 1/3-inning effort in San Francisco on May 14. The 1.77 ERA he has compiled through his first 11 starts ranks second only to Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija's MLB-leading mark (1.46).
"I know that was a tough game [in San Francisco]," Teheran said. " My mind was still the same. After my last game, going into this one, I knew everything was going to be okay. That was what I was feeling today."
Teheran's afternoon began inauspiciously as he surrendered consecutive singles to open the game. But he escaped unscathed by retiring the heart of Colorado's potent lineup -- Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Morneau.
Braves second baseman Tyler Pastornicky's inability to cleanly field DJ LeMahieu's potential double play grounder in the second inning gave the Rockies another early scoring threat. But Teheran then proceeded to retire each of the next 12 batters he faced.
"This time I had to work a little harder because I just had [four] days to rest," Teheran said. "That's what I did. I just rested my arm and concentrated. This time, I knew I wasn't going that long like I did the last game. I just tried to go out there make pitches and get through the most innings that I could."