Baseball / Sports

Kimbrel sets Braves record in saving 5-2 win over Diamondbacks

PHOENIX -- He did it while much of Braves Country slept, but Craig Kimbrel became the new Braves saves king late Friday on a night when Julio Teheran and Jason Heyward continued to sizzle in the desert.

Kimbrel broke John Smoltz's career saves record with a four-out save in a 5-2 series-opening win against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field, where Teheran pitched seven strong innings to win his fourth consecutive start and Heyward had three hits and two RBIs including a two-run homer.

It was the 16th save of the season for Kimbrel and the 155th of his career, moving him ahead of Smoltz, a former Cy Young Award winner and still the only pitcher in major league history to collect at least 200 wins and 150 saves.

Kimbrel came on to strike out Martin Prado with a runner on base for the last out of the eighth inning to protect and 3-2 lead, and the Braves tacked on two runs in the ninth on four hits including Jordan Schafer's leadoff single and run-scoring singles by Heyward and Justin Upton. Kimbrel retired the Diamondbacks in order in the ninth.

Teheran (6-3) allowed five hits and two runs in seven innings with one walk and seven strikeouts. He's 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his past four starts, with 27 strikeouts and five walks in 29 1/3 innings.

Twenty consecutive innings without scoring. That's how long the Braves lineup had sputtered and stumbled about until Heyward ended the drought in spectacular fashion Friday night, with a two-run opposite-field homer in the fifth inning that gave the Braves a 2-1 lead.

Heyward's line-drive homer to the left-field seats was the only hit the Braves got in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, but his homer and Andrelton Simmons' RBI double to score Heyward after a seventh-inning walk provided enough offensive support for Teheran and the Braves bullpen.

Teheran gave up a first-inning leadoff homer to Didi Gregorius and didn't give up another hit until David Peralta's leadoff double in the fifth. Peralta scored on a two-out single by the pitcher Brandon McCarthy to tie, but the Braves reclaimed the lead two innings later, this time for good.

Heyward scored the go-ahead run in the seventh when he walked and race home on Simmons' double to the left-fielder corner. Heyward had three hits and a walk in five plate appearances and has a .348 average with 32 hits including four homers in his past 23 games.

Gregorius was the only Diamondback to reach base against Teheran through the first four innings, on the first inning leadoff homer and a two-out walk in the third.

Peralta bounced a double over the right-field wall to start Arizona's fifth, and scored the tying run when McCarthy bounced a two-out single through the left side of the infield, just past the glove of third baseman Chris Johnson.

It was the first RBI and only the fourth hit in 76 major league plate appearances for McCarthy, a well-traveled veteran who spent his first seven seasons in the American League before signing with Arizona after the 2012 season.

McCarthy came into his first-ever start against the Braves with a 1-7 record and 5.20 ERA in 12 starts, including 0-4 with a 5.36 ERA in seven at home. The lanky right-hander allowed five or more earned runs in four of his first seven starts at Chase Field before Friday, when he blanked the Braves through the first four innings before they got to him for three runs in 6 1/3.

The Braves didn't just fail to score after Heyward's leadoff single in first inning, after Evan Gattis' one-out double in fourth, or after Simmons' one-out double in the fourth. No, they didn't even advance the runner in any of those innings.

After Heyward started the game with a single, Simmons struck out, Freddie Freeman grounded into a fielder's choice and Justin Upton struck out looking at three consecutive pitches.

Upton, in his second series at Chase Field since being traded by the Diamondbacks to the Braves in January 2013, struck out in each of his three at-bats against McCarthy, including leading off the fourth and sixth innings.

With Simmons at second and two out in the seventh inning, Upton flied out a step in front of the right-field wall against former Braves right-hander Randall Delgado, who was dealt to Arizona along with Martin Prado and three minor leaguers in the trade for Upton and Johnson.

After Gattis' double in the fourth, the catcher was thrown out on a fielder's choice when he ventured way too far off second base on Johnson's grounder to the shortstop.

So the Braves continued their troublesome habit of stranding runners for most of the night, but with Teheran starting and Kimbrel finishing, it didn't take much in the way of offensive support. And they got more than enough, especially late in the game.

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