- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - Freddie Freeman has had trouble catching up to fastballs during the Atlanta Braves’ miserable start.

No such issue for Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper.

With the struggling Freeman out of the lineup resting, Julio Teheran allowed a grand slam to Harper for the NL MVP’s 100th career homer, and the Braves lost their ninth straight to start the season, 6-2 to the Nationals on Thursday.

Minnesota also fell to 0-9 on Thursday, making the Braves and Twins the first major league teams to lose nine in a row to start a season since Detroit in 2003, according to STATS.

Atlanta started 0-10 in 1988 for its worst start ever, a mark it could match Friday night against Miami.

“I would bet that out of everybody in here nobody’s been in this situation,” Braves infielder Kelly Johnson said. “This is uncharted territory. It’s not something that you plan for.”

The rebuilding Braves weren’t expected to compete this season, but with Freeman - their most formidable hitter - off to a 2-for-25 start, the losses have piled up even faster than anticipated.

Teheran (0-2) gave up six runs in seven innings. Nick Markakis singled, doubled and drove in both of Atlanta’s runs while Freeman sat despite excellent career numbers against Stephen Strasburg (2-0).

The two-time All-Star couldn’t argue when manager Fredi Gonzalez dropped him from his regular No. 3 position in the order.

“Obviously, you guys know I’m not too thrilled about it,” Freeman said before game against Washington. “But when you’re hitting .080, there’s nothing much you can really say.”

The 26-year-old first baseman says he’s “100 percent healthy,” but hasn’t had his normal bat speed so far, including in Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Nationals and left-hander Gio Gonzalez.

“I know I hit one ball hard against Gio, but I had pitches to hit three times in that same at-bat and couldn’t get there,” Freeman said.

“He was throwing me heaters right down the middle and I just could not get there. That was the most frustrating part,” he said. “And you know, I (was) just starting to wonder, ‘What do I have to do? What’s the mechanical fix?’”

Freeman is a career .283 hitter. He batted .276 with 18 home runs last year despite playing only 118 games because of a wrist injury. Against Strasburg, he’s 12 for 31 (.387) with three homers and nine RBIs.

“We’re not just all propeller-heads here looking at numbers - you watch human beings,” Gonzalez said. “If you go straight propeller-heads numbers, he’s got great numbers against Strasburg. Not good numbers but great numbers. But right now, the way he’s swinging and feeling, I think it was time.”


Atlanta has lost 14 straight at Nationals Park. That’s the longest such skid for the franchise since the Boston Bees lost 17 straight at the Chicago Cubs over the 1935 and 1936 seasons.


Braves: RHP Williams Perez (0-0) will start Friday’s series opener against the Marlins looking to improve upon his first start. He allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings in Sunday’s 12-7 loss to St. Louis.

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