- 142 wins
- 110 wins
BOSTON -- One day after Jair Jurrjens provided encouragement with an impressive return from the Minor League level, Randall Delgado endured the worst start of his young career and gave the Braves another reason to wonder if their rotation is solid enough to help them battle for a playoff spot.
After receiving a lead before he threw his first pitch on Saturday night at Fenway Park, Delgado exited before the conclusion of the second inning and then watched helplessly as the Red Sox completed an 8-4 win.
"When you bring a young starter along, there are going to be days where it's not going to look as good," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Sometimes you're going to feel like the young man has turned the corner and then he takes a step backwards. That's what we felt like happened today."
Just as Jurrjens' start on Friday night does not guarantee he has escaped his previous struggles, the recent optimism Delgado had created will not be erased by the fact that he allowed the Red Sox four runs and six hits in 1 1/3 innings. But having already lost Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow surgery, the Braves might not be able to afford dealing with any prolonged growing pains the 22-year-old is destined to experience.
Still, this one start is not going to lead the Braves to move Kris Medlen to the rotation or accelerate their efforts to acquire Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza or any other available starting pitcher before the trade deadline. Instead, they will hope to see Delgado quickly regain the form that had allowed him to limit opponents to a .188 batting average and .278 on-base percentage in his previous four starts.
"He didn't have location tonight," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "When a young kid struggles with location, it snowballs on him fast, and it snowballed on him tonight. You've got to really get him to slow himself down. He just wants to get it and go, get it and go, get it and go. It's harder to make adjustments that way."
Delgado surrendered four hits in a two-run first inning and retired just the first of the six batters he faced in the two-run second inning. As Delgado struggled through this 56-pitch effort, it was hard to imagine he had limited the Orioles to three hits and two runs over a career-high eight innings just six days earlier.
"He didn't' command anything really," Gonzalez said. "He was behind in the count a couple different times. He looked uncomfortable on the mound. That was not the same guy we saw his last turn against the Orioles."
Delgado retired two of the first three batters he faced before surrendering consecutive singles to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Adrian Gonzalez. Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks followed with an RBI double that marked the start of his three-hit night.
Dustin Pedroia's two-run double in the second inning served as the final blow incurred by Delgado, who had not completed fewer than four innings in any of his previous 20 career starts.
"I felt comfortable with my curveball and my changeup," Delgado said. "Maybe I was leaving them right in the middle."
Having won each of their previous three games, the Braves got rolling early against Franklin Morales, who was making just his second start of the season. Before the evening's first out was recorded, they would tally two singles, draw a walk, execute a double steal and provide Delgado a 1-0 lead that was quickly squandered.
Morales stranded runners at the corners to end the first inning and prevented the Braves from adding another run until the fifth inning. The veteran left-hander allowed three runs (two earned) and seven hits while working six innings for the first time since 2009.
"We should have gotten more out of the first than we did," Jones said. "We really had a chance to set the tone for the ballgame and have them play catch-up and hopefully give our young guy some breathing room. Unfortunately we only got the one and they come out in the top of the first really feeling good about things, as opposed to being down two or three runs."
After the Red Sox gained a 6-2 lead with Cody Ross' fifth-inning double off Cristhian Martinez, Jones delivered an RBI single off Morales. The Braves continued their comeback bid when Andrelton Simmons' double put David Ross in position to score on Michael Bourn's seventh-inning groundout.
With runners at the corners, one out and Brian McCann at the plate in a two-run game, the Red Sox called upon Andrew Miller, who breathed a sigh of relief when McCann's liner found the glove of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who stepped on the bag to complete an inning-ending double play.
After seeing their lead sliced to two runs in the top of the seventh, the Red Sox extended it back to four in the bottom half of the inning. The crushing blow came against Jonny Venters, who uncorked a wild pitch and allowed a pair of inherited base runners to score on Daniel Nava's single through the right side of the infield.
"We're really proud of the way we played offensively," said Fredi Gonzalez. "We kept battling and battling. We made it a game. They just kept adding on every time we scored."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.