ATLANTA -- Throughout the early portion of his career, Cole Hamels frequently helped the Phillies make a push toward the postseason with a strong start against the Braves. His bid to do the same for the Rangers on Wednesday night at SunTrust Park unraveled during a five-run second inning that proved decisive in Texas' 5-4 loss.
Provided the chance to help the Rangers sweep a doubleheader and move within a game of the American League's second Wild Card spot, Hamels was undone by a few of his own mistakes during the second inning, which was capped by Freddie Freeman's two-run double. The Rangers' southpaw retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced, but allowed five runs (four earned) and six hits over six innings.
"Putting a five-spot is definitely not the right way to go about it," Hamels said.
With just their third loss in the past nine games, the Rangers fell two games behind the Twins, who currently sit in the AL's second Wild Card spot. Rangers manager Jeff Banister said the team must put the loss behind them before a crucial series vs. the Yankees begins Friday.
"We have to continue to play good baseball by showing up, pitching well and playing all facets of the game," Banister said.
"I kind of was a little careful because I didn't want to make a mistake," Teheran said. "Five walks, it's a lot, but I didn't want to just throw the ball over the middle of the plate so they could hit it."
Exactly a week after tallying eight hits during a doubleheader in Philadelphia, Braves leadoff hitter Ender Inciarte totaled five hits in this one. He highlighted his two-hit performance in the nightcap by fueling the second-inning eruption with an RBI single.
"It was good we got the offense early in the game," Teheran said. "It's good to have that offense so that you can relax a little bit. I knew I was facing a really good team, and they showed it. They made me throw a lot of pitches."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Costly mistakes: Hamels issued a four-pitch walk to Nick Markakis to begin the bottom of the second, then hit Kurt Suzuki with a two-strike curveball. Dansby Swanson followed by driving in the game's first run with a single. The Rangers' veteran pitcher fueled the eruption by fielding Teheran's bunt and sailing his throw to second into center field. Suzuki scored on the play and the Braves followed with three consecutive hits, including Freeman's double off the left-center field wall.
"It's definitely not finishing guys off," Hamels said. "When I get two strikes, for some odd reason, I can't locate a pitch in a better area to where I can at least get a punchout or a weak ground ball. I have just not been able to locate it."
Managing the fifth:Delino DeShields opened the top of fifth with a sinking liner that a diving Markakis caught in right field. Mazara delivered a one-out single and scored on Gomez's double off the center-field wall. With two left-handed hitters coming to the plate, Teheran then issued consecutive walks to get to the right-handed Robinson Chirinos, who popped out to second baseman Ozzie Albies.
"It's good to see him never give in," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I think he worked the fifth to where he had the guy he wanted up there. So, it was good for him to manage the game a bit there."
"He just couldn't find the range with the soft stuff, and he battled through six innings with primarily the four-seam fastball and the cutter. He mixed in some changeups to get some swings and misses, but was just a bit out of rhythm with the secondary stuff." -- Banister, on Hamels' effort
"We capitalized on some mistakes and just stayed the course. These American League lineups, there's just never any letup in them. They keep coming at you. [The Rangers] don't put the ball on the ground very often unless it's a mis-hit or a broken bat. They're trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark most of the time." -- Snitker
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With a pinch-hit triple in the sixth inning, Will Middlebrooks became the first player in Major League history to have two pinch-hit triples in both games of a doubleheader.
This was Hamels' first start against the Braves since 2015. He had allowed five or more runs in just five of his previous 35 starts against the Braves.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: After an off-day, the Rangers return home to begin a three-game series with the Yankees at Globe Life Park. Martin Perez starts the series opener at 7:05 p.m. CT and will look improve his 5.42 home ERA this season.
Braves: Lefty Sean Newcomb will take the mound when the Braves and Marlins begin a four-game series at SunTrust Park on Thursday at 7:35 p.m. ET. Newcomb has allowed three earned runs or fewer in seven of his past eight starts.