MIAMI -- Sean Newcomb will need to extend his recent dominance over a longer stretch before he could be described as a legitimate frontline starter. But the strides he's made with his repertoire, confidence and approach have certainly distanced him from the frustration felt during last year's rookie season.Freddie Freeman
MIAMI -- Sean Newcomb will need to extend his recent dominance over a longer stretch before he could be described as a legitimate frontline starter. But the strides he's made with his repertoire, confidence and approach have certainly distanced him from the frustration felt during last year's rookie season.
Freddie Freeman completed an impressive dash and Preston Tucker delivered a key pinch-hit that covered the three-run home run Arodys Vizcaino surrendered during Sunday afternoon's 4-3 win over the Marlins. But as the Braves rolled toward their 10th win in their past 11 road games they were once again led by Newcomb, who has completed 20 consecutive scoreless innings.
"A year ago, that game probably gets away from [Newcomb]," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Right now, he has more weapons and more experience. It's pretty good."
Newcomb's fastball command was inconsistent, and he didn't necessarily feel comfortable with his curveball or changeup as he limited the Marlins to one hit over six scoreless innings. But simply having gained confidence in a third pitch -- the changeup -- has provided him the deceptive portion of his arsenal that didn't exist as he produced a 4.32 ERA over his first 19 career starts last year.
"He's probably been their best guy over there," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He's got a fastball that takes off on you. I think we saw it on the right-handers, the ball takes off. His changeup has the same kind of direction. He was able to keep us off the board for a long time."
As Newcomb has produced a 1.70 ERA over his past seven starts, he's gained more confidence in his curveball, which is delivered on the same plane as his fastball. Consequently, hitters can no longer simply attempt to identify a heater or curveball out of his hand.
"I think there has been a big jump from where I started to where I'm at now," Newcomb said. "I'm able to kind of see deeper into the game before it happens. I just can pitch better. I feel a lot more comfortable."
The Braves were bidding for their sixth shutout victory until Justin Bour hit his upper deck three-run shot off Vizcaino with one out in the ninth. Bour's impressive shot was not enough to overcome the cushion Atlanta gained when Tucker preserved Newcomb's fourth straight win with a two-out RBI single in the top of the ninth.
"I just got the feeling today that [Newcomb] never stopped pitching," Snitker said. "He never got caught up in the moment. He kept the game slow and executed pitches. He took it a pitch at a time, instead of looking ahead or behind as you do with hitters. I think he was just doing a good job of staying focused on the next pitch."
Newcomb's command wasn't razor sharp as he was forced to pitch around four walks. But the 24-year-old southpaw showed some moxie as he stranded a runner in scoring position during two of the first three innings and was unfazed when he issued a walk to begin both of his final two frames.
"I think [last year] I would have done a more poor job of slowing it down and taking it one pitch at a time," Newcomb said. "It's something that when I get into a jam, I can't focus on trying to throw a faster fastball -- throw a better one. That has been my mentality."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Necessary insurance: Tucker has steadily become more comfortable with the pinch-hit role he gained when he was forced to the bench by Ronald Acuna Jr.'s late April arrival. After Johan Camargo extended the top of the ninth with a single, Tucker delivered what proved to be a game-winner when he scored Kurt Suzuki with a two-out RBI single that deflected off a diving Starlin Castro's glove near the edge of the outfield grass.
"Games can change really quickly up here and obviously it got really tight at the end," Tucker said. "You want to be greedy when you're [leading] and really put pressure on the other team when you're [losing]. Getting that extra run was big. Camargo did a great job of getting that two-out hit and getting me up there with a runner in scoring position."
HEADS UP HUSTLE
Nick Markakis has collected more than 2,000 hits, but before Sunday's first inning he might not have ever previously driven a runner home from first base on a single to shallow left field. This rarity occurred courtesy of the hustle showed by Freeman, who was running on a 3-2 pitch. The Braves first baseman was rounding third base as what seemed to be a pop fly fell between shortstop Yadiel Rivera and left fielder Cameron Maybin.
"You watch Freddie," Snitker said. "How many infield hits does he get a year? He's a big man and never doesn't run. Right there, it would be easy to just coast around there and stop at third. But he's a baseball player and has that sixth sense that might be trouble. He was going from the first step. He was looking to score. That's a great heads up, baseball play."
ONE FOR MOM
Ender Inciarte entered this Mother's Day contest wanting to hit a home run for his mother, who was watching back home in Venezuela. Inciarte delivered with the two-run shot he hit in the sixth off Marlins starter Jose Urena, who was perfect in three of the first five frames. Atlanta's Gold Glove center fielder has tallied two of this three home runs within a span of four at-bats over the final two games of this series. More >
HE SAID IT
"He threw some pitches today, I was asking [pitching coach Chuck Hernandez] what they were because it was just a late, deep break. The slider had a lot of depth. His fastball rides, and it's hard to get a hold of. He has some deception. -- Snitker, on Dan Winkler, who has posted a 1.02 ERA through 17 2/3 innings (19 appearances)
Julio Teheran will oppose his good friend and fellow Colombian, Jose Quintana, when the Braves travel to Wrigley Field to play a makeup game against the Cubs on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET. Teheran has worked 15 consecutive scoreless innings and has a 1.54 ERA over his past six starts. This game was scheduled after the April 15 game was postponed because of rain.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.