PITTSBURGH — Julio Teheran wasn’t sure where his two-seam fastball was going when he sent one toward Andrew McCutchen in the first inning on Saturday.
When it smacked into the slugger’s left elbow, Teheran winced.
“I feel bad that I hit him,” Teheran said. “It’s part of the game and you don’t want that to affect you.”
It did. The Pirates ripped off five runs immediately after McCutchen left with a bruised elbow and went on to an 8-4 victory over Teheran and Atlanta. The Braves have dropped a season-high five straight.
“We’ve got to minimize those innings that are big innings,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “With Julio that seems to be the thing that gets him every time.
Teheran (5-4) was an All-Star in 2014, but has already surrendered six runs five times this season, including three times in his last seven starts.
McCutchen has become a popular target for opposing pitchers during his rise to stardom. He was tagged by Williams Perez on Friday night. Then he was drilled for the eighth time this season when a 92 mph pitch from Teheran smacked into McCutchen’s unprotected elbow. He doubled over in pain for several moments before leaving.
“I was trying to get (inside) and I know you can make a mistake with a hitter like that,” Teheran said. “I didn’t know that my two-seamer was moving that much. It was the first one I threw in the game.”
X-rays on McCutchen’s elbow were negative and he was diagnosed with a bruise. He will be re-evaluated on Sunday and is uncertain if he will be able to play in the series finale.
“I hate getting hit,” McCutchen said. “Worse than that I guess pitchers don’t like to get their ERA ran up with a fastball up over the middle of the plate and me be able to do damage with that either. I’m sure they’d rather hit me.”
Jace Peterson had two hits and drove in three runs for Atlanta, but the Braves couldn’t catch up after spotting the Pirates an early lead.
Starling Marte got three hits and scored three times for Pittsburgh. Jordy Mercer, Francisco Cervelli and Pedro Alvarez each drove in two runs. Charlie Morton (6-1) pitched into the seventh to bounce back from a rough start in Washington last weekend.
Watching McCutchen leave in pain seemed to get Pittsburgh’s attention.
Marte singled home Neil Walker to give the Pirates the lead, and they were just getting started. Alvarez followed with a two-run double, Cervelli had an RBI single and Mercer tacked one on with a crisp single up the middle.
Staked to a sizable lead, Morton hit Andrelton Simmons in the foot in the second inning. Home plate umpire John Tumpane issued a warning to both dugouts, and things settled down quickly.
Nick Markakis had an RBI single for Atlanta in the third, but Marte scored on a delayed double steal — helped by a botched throw home from first baseman Joey Terdoslavich — to make it 6-1.
Morton’s control abandoned him in the seventh. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs, and Peterson doubled to get Atlanta within 6-4, but the Braves would get no closer.
Perez expected some discomfort the day after the rookie Atlanta pitcher took a liner off his left foot in the fifth inning on Friday night. X-rays revealed no fractures, and Perez put on a walking boot as a precaution. The boot helped. It just didn’t prepare Perez for what awaited when he opened his eyes on Saturday.
“It was worse than I thought it was going to be,” Perez said.
While Perez felt he “dodged a bullet,” he couldn’t avoid some unwanted time off. The Braves placed him on the 15-day DL and called up 27-year-old rookie reliever Jake Brigham from Triple-A Gwinnett. Manager Fredi Gonzalez isn’t sure Perez needs the entire 15 days to heal from the bone bruise, but didn’t want the Braves to be short a man for an extended period. Gonzalez isn’t sure who will take Perez’s spot in the rotation when it comes up again Thursday against Washington.
The series wraps up Sunday when Atlanta’s Alex Wood (4-5, 3.44 ERA) faces Jeff Locke (4-3, 4.73 ERA). Wood has lost three straight decisions, including a 3-0 defeat against the Pirates on June 7. The Braves have knocked around Locke at times. The left-hander is 1-1 with a 6.08 ERA in five starts against Atlanta. The lone victory was a 2-1 triumph on Oct. 1, 2012, that was Locke’s first major league victory.