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Newcomb dominates as Braves shut out Padres

Lefty allows two hits, K's 7 in six strong innings in front of record crowd
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Showing the same resolve that has allowed him to quickly distance himself from a rough start this year, Sean Newcomb remained stoic as he avoided early trouble and constructed his latest impressive start in a 1-0 Braves win over the Padres on Saturday afternoon at SunTrust Park.

"It's good to see that maturity and confidence in him now," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "There's no panic. I love how he stays pitch to pitch during a game. It's just a young pitcher who is confident in what he's doing and has faith in himself."

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ATLANTA -- Showing the same resolve that has allowed him to quickly distance himself from a rough start this year, Sean Newcomb remained stoic as he avoided early trouble and constructed his latest impressive start in a 1-0 Braves win over the Padres on Saturday afternoon at SunTrust Park.

"It's good to see that maturity and confidence in him now," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "There's no panic. I love how he stays pitch to pitch during a game. It's just a young pitcher who is confident in what he's doing and has faith in himself."

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Charlie Culberson's fifth-inning home run provided the necessary support for Newcomb, who allowed two hits over six scoreless innings. The Braves lefty retired 13 straight to conclude his outing and 17 of the 18 batters faced after the Padres put runners on the corners with one out in the first inning. He threw just 84 pitches, but did not return after inclement weather delayed the game for 25 minutes.

"When we had the rain delay and he knew he was going to be done, I saw some fire from him, because he wants the ball," Culberson said. "He was throwing well, and he's been throwing well all year. That's what you want from a teammate and one of your starters."

As the Braves now find themselves with a 2 1/2-game lead in the National League East, they can attribute a portion of their success to the steadiness and consistency Newcomb has displayed while posting the NL's seventh-best ERA (2.70) through his first 14 starts. He has distanced himself from the struggles and doubts he experienced while posting a 4.32 ERA in his first 19 big league starts last year.

Newcomb certainly wasn't adversely affected by his rough last start, in which he allowed five earned runs to the Dodgers last weekend, just as he wasn't bothered after the Nationals scored five earned runs against him in his first start of the season, or when he lasted just three innings in front of friends and family members at Fenway Park on May 26. In the starts that have followed those three rough outings, he has allowed just two earned runs in 19 innings.

"It goes both ways," Newcomb said. "After you have a good one, you've got to be able to clear it and look forward to the next one. You've got to treat each start as kind of a new thing, whether you had a good one or a bad one. That allows you to go out fresh every time."

Jose Pirela opened the game with a double to left field, and the Padres found themselves with runners at the corners after Hunter Renfroe drew a one-out walk. Newcomb then recorded consecutive strikeouts of Christian Villanueva and Franmil Reyes with seven consecutive fastballs.

Video: SD@ATL: Newcomb strikes out Reyes to work out of jam

"[The fastball] felt good today," Newcomb said "It felt good warming up in the 'pen. Those are some power guys. I was trying to attack them. I didn't want them to hit something soft and do something with it."

After A.J. Ellis singled with two outs in the second inning, the Padres did not have another baserunner until Freddy Galvis singled with two outs against Dan Winkler in the seventh. The Braves received scoreless innings from A.J. Minter and Arodys Vizcaino to lock down this year's second 1-0 win. The other, recorded May 8 in Tampa, was also started by Newcomb.

"They have real arms in their bullpen," Padres manager Andy Green said. "[A.J.] Minter's a real arm. Winkler's a real arm. Vizcaino is a real arm. There's no easy guy you are looking to face in that situation. You still have to grind out at-bats. Their guys threw the ball well, and until the ninth, we weren't really able to create any opportunities."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Early game-winner: Playing in front of a SunTrust Park-record 41,916 fans, the Braves had trouble solving Padres starter Jordan Lyles, who allowed one run on five hits over seven innings. Culberson took care of Lyles' only costly mistake, jumping on a 1-0 fastball and sending it over the left-center-field fence to begin the bottom of the fifth.

Video: SD@ATL: Culberson smacks a solo homer to left field

Culberson's shot was his third homer of the year, but just the first that was not of the walk-off variety. Four of his previous eight career home runs have ended games.

"I was like, 'Wait a second, this isn't how it's supposed to work,'" Culberson said. "I'm just kidding. It was nice to hit a home run early on in the game. I don't hit many of them. But that was a big one today, and I'm glad it happened."

Video: SD@ATL: Culberson, Newcomb on 1-0 win vs. the Padres

SOUND SMART
Minter has struck out 10 of the past 16 batters he has faced, dating back to June 6. He's beginning to live up to the expectations set when he ended last year's rookie season by striking out 17 of the last 31 batters he faced. Through the 25 appearances that preceded this recent stretch, he had struck out just one of every four batters faced.

Rain-delay decision

Snitker says he would have been willing to send Newcomb to the mound after the 25-minute delay had the wait not been extended by the fact that the Braves were due up when play resumed in the bottom half of the sixth.

"If we weren't hitting, I'd have probably let him go back out," Snitker said. "I didn't know how long that inning was going to take. It didn't feel right. He'd done too good of a job. He already had a good workload. I didn't want him to lose that game, and our bullpen was in good shape."

Video: SD@ATL: Snitker on Newcomb's strong start, 1-0 win

Newcomb was frustrated by the turn of events, but understood the decision.

"It was obviously disappointing because I was going well right there, but it was good to turn it over to the bullpen, just in case I was too cooled down and didn't have my best stuff," Newcomb said.

HE SAID IT
"If there is a profile of a guy that's tough for our group collectively, that's the profile right there, and [Newcomb] is a guy who's throwing fastballs by us at the top of the zone. I think people can see that. We have to shorten up and connect, and we weren't able to do that today." -- Green, who has seen the Braves lefty complete six scoreless innings in each of his three starts against the Padres

UP NEXT
Julio Teheran will return to the rotation following a short disabled-list stint when the Braves host the Padres on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. Teheran has been sidelined since jamming his right thumb during a June 4 start in San Diego. His short absence might prove beneficial, as his average fastball velocity has dipped from 91.3 mph in 2017 to 89.2 mph this year. San Diego, meanwhile, plans to have a "bullpen day," using a variety of relievers vs. the Braves, much like they did when they beat Atlanta, 3-1, on June 6 a Petco Park.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Sean Newcomb