Julio Teheran was sharp enough that he didn’t need much run support en route to winning his fourth consecutive start and beating the Nationals for the third straight time Tuesday. He didn’t need much support, but got plenty.
Freddie Freeman had three hits including a three-run homer on his 28th birthday and surging rookie Ozzie Albies had three hits including his first left-handed homer as the Braves pounded Washington 8-0 in a series opener at Nationals Park.
Ender Inciarte and Johan Camargo added two doubles apiece for the Braves, who scored five runs in five innings against veteran left-hander Gio Gonzalez, totaled nine extra-base hits and recorded their fifth win in six games after losing five of the previous six.
Teheran (11-11) pitched seven impressive innings — his velocity was up a couple of ticks, topping out at 95 mph — and allowed seven hits and two walks with five strikeouts to win his fourth consecutive start and also win his third consecutive start against Washington, all at Nationals Park.
“That was the old Julio, 92 to 95 (mph),” Freeman said. “That’s what we haven’t seen lately. He’s been doing it the last couple of starts, so hopefully he can ride this into the offseason and bring that back to us next year.”
Teheran also helped himself with a two-out RBI single in the sixth that pushed the lead to 6-0.
“This last month has been great, the way we want to see Julio pitching,” Teheran said, going third person and smiling proudly. “I think that I figured out and made adjustments and that’s the way I like to feel. Today I showed it. It was a really good game, I had everything working.
“Good thing the guys gave me a run (in the first inning). It’s always good when we start with a one-run lead.”
After scuffling for much of the season, Teheran has hit his stride lately. He’s 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA in his past six starts with 35 strikeouts, 14 walks and only two homers in 39 innings. That includes a microcoscopic 0.44 ERA in his past three road starts, the other two coming in hitter-friendly ballparks at Colorado and Philadelphia.
The Braves improved to 7-7 against Washington including 5-3 at Nationals Park. This after going 9-29 against Washington during the 2016-2016 seasons including 1-19 at Nationals Park.
“Today might have been a little hangover for them, winning the division a couple of days ago,” Freeman said. “I think they’ll get back on the horse and give us a tougher (time) the next two days.”
As for Teheran, he’s 3-0 with an 0.86 ERA in his past three starts against Washington, all at Nationals Park, after going 0-3 with a 6.11 ERA and 11 homers allowed in eight consecutive Braves losses against the Nationals from late June 2014 through his first start against them this season on April 19.
“He’s been really good, really efficient (lately),” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Stuff’s been really good. He’s reaching back and getting a little extra when he needs to. Slider was really good. Good command of his fastball.”
There was no cute, ironic chopping from Nationals fans. Not like Sunday, when thousands of them stuck around after their team’s game to see the end of the Braves-Marlins game shown on the videoboard at Nationals Park.
A Braves win against the Marlins was needed that day for Washington to clinch the National League East title, and Washington fans actually did the Braves’ chop and chant during the 11th inning when Atlanta completed a 10-8 walk-off win on Lane Adams’ home run.
There was no chopping Tuesday from the small Nationals crowd of 22,769, but there was plenty of exiting by the seventh inning, when the Nationals put two runners on base for the third time, but the first time with less than two outs.
Teheran promptly induced an inning-ending double-play grounder from pinch-hitter Victor Robles, and fans headed in droves for the Metrorail station two blocks away.
The Nationals have lost four consecutive games Gonzalez has started against the Braves and he’s lasted fewer than six innings in five of his past six starts against them. Wednesday marked just the second time in his past nine starts that Gonzalez allowed more than two earned runs, but it was the third time in his past five starts against the Braves that he allowed five or six runs in five or fewer innings.
After Matt Kemp’s first-inning RBI single, Freeman broke the game open with a three-run homer in the third inning.
“It’s been a pretty good couple of years the last couple of years on my birthday,” said Freeman, who had three hits in a win on his birthday for the second consecutive year, and is 14-for-30 (.467) with two homers, eight RBIs in eight career birthday games. “But ultimately getting the win is more important than hits. It was a good birthday today.”
Albies extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a first-inning single, then added another single in the third inning. He stole second base and scored on Kemp’s single in the first inning, and was on base when Freeman hit his 26th homer.
Albies got into the extra-base hit parade when he led off the seventh inning with his third home run, batting lefty against reliever A.J. Cole. Freeman followed with an opposite-field double, later scoring on Kurt Suzuki’s ground-rule double.
The Nationals’ Gonzalez gave up seven hits and five runs in five innings and fell to a personal-worst 4-11 with a 5.27 ERA in 20 career starts against the Braves, including 0-3 in seven starts over the past two seasons. Gonzalez entered Tuesday with a 14-6 record and 2.50 ERA this season.
“Gio has been probably one of the best pitchers in the game this year,” said Freeman, whose long homer to straightaway center was the first by a lefty batter off Gonzalez this season. “So it’s nice to be able to get to him. We did make him throw a lot of pitches in the first inning and we were able to capitalize when we got guys on. I think that’s the name of the game. We’ve been scoring some runs lately and Julio backed it up today.”
Gonzalez doesn’t have more than six losses against any other team, and here’s how he’s fared against the other National League East teams: 10-3 with a 1.85 ERA in 16 starts against the Marlins; 14-5 with a 2.93 ERA in 23 starts against the Mets, and 10-6 with a 2.60 ERA in 22 starts against the Phillies.