PITTSBURGH — Julio Teheran allowed five hits in 7 2/3 crisp innings and the Atlanta Braves gave Brian Snitker his first victory as interim manager with a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
Teheran (1-4) struck out three without a walk to end six weeks of frustration. Tyler Flowers hit a home run to the bushes in center field and finished with three hits for the Braves, who won for just the third time in their last 13 games.
Arodys Vizcaino gave up a ninth-inning home run to Jung Ho Kang but got the final four outs for his fourth save.
Francisco Liriano (3-3) pitched seven strong innings after getting rocked in his previous start last week against the Chicago Cubs but the Pirates lost for the first time in Liriano’s last 14 starts at PNC Park.
A night after pounding out 12 runs on a season-high 21 hits, Pittsburgh never made it to third base with Teheran on the mound.
The victory was a long time coming for Snitker, who has spent nearly four decades in the Atlanta organization in various capacities at various levels as a player, coach and manager. He took over for the fired Fredi Gonzalez on Tuesday and a night after getting a good long look at his team’s current state in a disjointed 12-9 defeat, he saw a glimpse of something he hopes the club can build on.
Though Atlanta is in the midst of what could be a long rebuilding, the Braves do have Teheran, who has pitched well but not been rewarded with a victory thanks mostly to an offense that mustered all off 17 runs combined in his first eight starts. The offense wasn’t much better against Liriano, but Teheran was so crisp it didn’t matter.
The 25-year-old needed only 91 pitches to get through an offense that entered the day second in the majors in batting average (.282) and sixth in runs scored. He left with two outs in the seventh but Vizcaino got Andrew McCutchen to fly out to center to end the threat.
Atlanta improved to 10-29 with the win, still the worst record in the big leagues, but avoided the worst 39-game start in franchise history. Freddie Freeman delivered an RBI single in the third and Flowers hit his first home run with the Braves in the sixth.
Pittsburgh hadn’t lost a game Liriano started at home in 11 months. While he was much improved after the Cubs knocked him around for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings last Friday — striking out four and walking two — the Pirates could do little to get to Teheran. It was Kang’s fifth home run in nine games since recovering from a broken left leg.
The Braves sent scuffling rookie pitcher Aaron Blair back to Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday after a shaky outing in a 12-9 loss on Tuesday in which the 23-year-old prospect failed to get out of the second inning. Blair’s ERA ballooned to 7.59 after getting charged with nine runs while recording only four outs in his fifth career start.
“I told him, it’s not a bad thing,” Snitker said. “There’s a lot of guys that go down and when they come back they’re a lot more prepared for what they’re going to be in for.”
Atlanta promoted John Gant to take Blair’s roster spot. The right-hander could start this weekend if he’s not used out of the bullpen in the interim. Snitker stressed Blair, a first-round draft pick by Arizona three years ago, remains an important part of Atlanta’s future even while going through some very public growing pains.
“When he gets off the mark, he’s probably going to pay for it,” Snitker said. “He’s got all the makeup, work ethic, competitiveness going for him and he’ll be fine.”
Braves: Mike Foltynewicz (1-1, 2.89 ERA) makes his fourth start of the season when the series wraps up Thursday. The 24-year-old is coming off eight shutout innings against World Series champion Kansas City last Saturday.
Pirates: Jeff Locke (1-3, 5.45) goes for his first victory in nearly a month. The left-hander is 0-1 with a 5.89 ERA in May and was touched for six runs in 5 1/3 innings in a loss to the Cubs last weekend.