As expected and feared, the first night of the Freddie Freeman Wrist Injury era did not go very well for the Braves. While on-field fireworks were anticipated by many and dreaded by some (including me), a first-inning plunking of Jose Bautista seemingly put the bad blood to rest, but paved the way for an offensive outburst against Julio Teheran that sunk the Braves in the final game of this home-and-home four game series.
After retiring the first batter he faced on a flyout, Teheran threw inside twice to Bautista, who ruffled a fair bit of feathers with a bat flip following a garbage time home run. Bautista trotted on to first, moved to second on a hard grounder from Kendrys Morales, and then scored on a Darrell Ceciliani double into the right-field corner. The Blue Jays weren’t done there, as Chris Coghlan also doubled to score Morales and Ceciliani, putting the Braves in a 3-0 hole before they were able to take their hacks against Toronto starter Marcus Stroman.
Stroman had few problems working around a two-out Nick Markakis single, and Teheran seemed to have settled down some in the second, working a 1-2-3 inning that included a strikeout. The Braves wasted an unlikely leadoff double on a squibbed groundball from Tyler Flowers in the bottom of the frame, and then things got out of hand for Teheran. Bautista doubled to start the inning on an absolute rocket over Matt Kemp’s head, and scored on a Morales single. Ceciliani, hitting cleanup for the Jays despite a career 35 wRC+ (and a -6 wRC+ in 80 PAs for the Jays’ AAA affiliate earlier this season), obliterated a grooved changeup from Teheran over the right-center SunTrust Park facade, giving Toronto a 6-0 lead. Ceciliani actually injured his shoulder on the swing, and had to leave the game thereafter, but the damage was done.
A short rain delay lengthened the game’s runtime, but both starters returned after the skies cleared. Stroman showed no ill effects, and was able to complete the day with five and two-thirds scoreless innings complete, having allowed seven hits and a walk while striking out six. Teheran, meanwhile, did not fare so well in his next inning. The first batter, Luke Maile, of the 30 career wRC+, deposited another changeup into the stands. Then, Teheran gave up the ultimate insult, an 0-2 homer to Stroman on a fastball that was out of the zone, up and away. It was only the second homer hit by a Toronto pitcher in history (the first was Mark Hendrickson, back in 2003). Teheran then walked Ezequiel Carrera, who actually had no idea he had earned a base on balls and continued to stand in the batter’s box for quite a while. That was Teheran’s last batter; Sam Freeman came out of the bullpen and allowed two singles and a walk to charge another run to Teheran before finally getting a strikeout and a double play to end the inning.
Teheran’s terrible outing of three-plus innings pitched, eight hits, nine runs (all earned), three homers, one walk, and two strikeouts did quite a lot of damage to his season stats. His ERA increased from 4.08 to 5.47. His FIP increased from 4.53 to 5.27. It was just bad, all around. Teheran retired fewer than half of the left-handed batters he faced, and the three guys who homered off of him had a combined (as in, 35 for Ceciliani, 30 for Maile, 21 for Stroman = 86 in total) career wRC+ of 86 coming into this game, lower than the career wRC+ of Adonis Garcia (91).
The game settled into a comfortable routine after that, with the Braves unable to generate anything in their suddenly Freddie Freeman-less lineup, and the Jays grinding out plate appearances with a comfortable lead. Sam Freeman recovered from his early-appearance jitters to end up firing three scoreless innings, and Josh Collmenter put up two goose eggs of his own; Ian Krol threw a scoreless ninth for the Braves.
Braves bats got two runners on in both the fifth and sixth innings, with the latter chasing Stroman from the game. Unfortunately, Rio Ruiz, making his first start of 2017, struck out against righty reliever Nick Tepera to end the threat. The Braves did not generate another baserunner the entire game, as the relief contingent of Tepera, Joe Smith, and former Brave Jason Grilli threw three and a third perfect frames to end the game.
Ruiz went 0-for-3 in his season debut, while Johan Camargo, who came in as a defensive replacement, went 0-for-1. The Braves will now attempt to navigate an extended duration without Freddie Freeman in whatever way they can manage. Their next test: a weekend series with the “hey we’re actually a good team in the NL East” Washington Nationals in Atlanta.