ATLANTA — Even without an effective change-up, Julio Teheran still had enough to pitch into the ninth inning.
“I decided to just compete with my other pitches,” he said. “I know my fastball is good, my two-seamer, so I just tried to command my curve and my slider.”
Teheran pitched 8⅓ strong innings, Dan Uggla hit a three-run homer and the Atlanta Braves won their fourth consecutive game with a 5-1 victory over the struggling Minnesota Twins on Monday.
Teheran (3-1) gave up five hits, one run – Josh Willingham’s homer in the ninth – and one walk. He struck out four, throwing 80 of his 123 pitches for strikes.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez gave Teheran a chance to finish the game, but he and pitching coach Roger McDowell had agreed before the ninth that they wouldn’t let the 22-year-old throw more than 125 pitches.
Teheran noticed in his pregame bullpen session that he wouldn’t be able to rely too much on his change-up. He tried it against a few batters early in the game, but stuck with what was working instead of forcing the pitch on catcher Gerald Laird.
“For the experience of being out there in the ninth inning – maybe he was a little tired – but you’ve got to dig deep a little bit,” Gonzalez said. “It was good for him.”
Cory Gearrin earned his first career save by retiring pinch-hitter Oswaldo Arcia on a flyout that gave Minnesota its sixth consecutive loss.
The previous longest career outing for Teheran was seven innings, a mark he reached in a no-decision April 29 against Washington and a May 9 victory at San Francisco.
After rallying in the late innings to sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend, Atlanta jumped on Twins starter Kevin Correia (4-4) early.
“He said it – his arm was dragging tonight,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He just couldn’t get the whip in it, couldn’t get the ball where he wanted to, I think. Normally he’s really good locating the baseball, and he was up.”
Correia had his shortest outing in nine starts this season. In four innings, he allowed eight hits, a season-high five runs and one walk.
Correia recorded no strikeouts for the first time this year and the first time as a starter since April 29, 2012, when he and the Pittsburgh Pirates lost in Atlanta.
“I didn’t have real good command of pretty much anything, really,” Correia said. “I was kind of getting away with it there after the first. I was able to kind of weasel my way through a couple innings, I guess.”
In the first, Freddie Freeman had an RBI single, and Uggla hit his eighth homer, a three-run shot, to make it 4-0.
Juan Francisco led off the fourth with a double, moved to third on Teheran’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Andrelton Simmons’ sacrifice fly RBI for a 5-0 lead.
Ryan Pressly pitched the fifth and sixth for Minnesota, allowing one walk and striking out one. Caleb Thielbar, recalled from Triple-A Rochester earlier in the day, worked the seventh and eighth, giving up a single and striking out three.
Teheran allowed a single to Justin Morneau in the first, faced the minimum in the second and gave up a leadoff single to Aaron Hicks in the third.
Morneau singled to begin the fourth and moved to second on a walk, but Teheran ended the threat with a flyout and a groundout.
Teheran, a 22-year-old in his first full season, held Minnesota to just one base runner – Willingham, who was hit by a pitch in the sixth – over the next four innings.
In his past five starts, the 22-year-old right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA.
Teheran retired Morneau on a flyout to begin the ninth, but Willingham hit his sixth homer and Trevor Plouffe singled to end the pitcher’s night.
Luis Avilan faced the next two batters. Parmelee singled and pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit flew out before Gearrin retired Arcia.
Teheran credited Laird with helping him stay on point.
“Everything he wanted, I tried to pitch,” Teheran said. “If I did shake him, he got me to throw it where he wanted me to. I shook him like twice the whole game. I did it in the seventh inning, and he got mad at me. But I know that sometimes I get confused, and he helped me with that.”