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Keuchel's short start puts bullpen in tough spot

Teheran labors in 10th inning, yields winning run to Cards in G4
@adamdberry
October 9, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Before their National League Division Series began, the Braves made the difficult decision to leave Julio Teheran off the roster. Teheran found his way into the postseason, anyway, as an injury replacement for reliever Chris Martin and an option to start Game 4. After winning Game 3,

ST. LOUIS -- Before their National League Division Series began, the Braves made the difficult decision to leave Julio Teheran off the roster. Teheran found his way into the postseason, anyway, as an injury replacement for reliever Chris Martin and an option to start Game 4. After winning Game 3, however, Atlanta made the seemingly obvious choice to have left-hander Dallas Keuchel pitch on short rest in Game 4.

But there was Teheran on Monday evening at Busch Stadium, finally given an opportunity to pitch in the 10th inning with a chance to help the Braves advance to the NL Championship Series presented by GEICO for the first time since 2001. Atlanta burned through its bullpen during the first nine innings, leaving closer Mark Melancon and Teheran as the last relievers standing.

The game was in Teheran’s hands, in other words, as long as it was tied. But it wasn’t tied for long, because Teheran gave up a leadoff double to Kolten Wong before Yadier Molina lofted a walk-off sacrifice fly to left field in the Braves’ 5-4 loss to the Cardinals.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3 STL 7, ATL 6 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 4 ATL 3, STL 0 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 6 ATL 3, STL 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 7 STL 5, ATL 4 (10) Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 9 STL 13, ATL 1 Watch

“I didn’t feel any pressure. I wanted to do my job,” Teheran said. “I’ve been trying to control my emotions. But it’s been a lot. There’s stuff I can’t really control. I’m just going to control my emotions and not let it affect me, pitching-wise.”

Afterward, Keuchel essentially put the blame on himself for not pitching deeper into the game. Starting on three days’ rest for only the third time in his career, Keuchel gave up three solo homers -- one to Paul Goldschmidt, two to Marcell Ozuna -- and exited after throwing 67 pitches in 3 1/3 innings.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s not in my nature to go short,” Keuchel said. “Just a few things here or there that I’d like to have back, but the most frustrating part is that I let the guys down, I feel like. I think we’ll all be available for Game 5 out of the bullpen, for sure.”

Keuchel said he felt fine physically, but he knew he’d have a shorter-than-usual leash given the unusual circumstances and the Braves’ opportunity to clinch the series.

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“I’ve just got to execute better. It’s just a little disappointing that I didn’t get as much length as I would have liked to,” Keuchel said. “That causes a lot of relievers to come in the game. We did a heck of a job but just came up just short.”

Indeed, the Braves used six of the eight relievers on their NLDS roster in Game 4, sending everyone but Melancon and left-hander Max Fried to the mound. Fried pinch-ran in the sixth inning, but the converted starter wasn’t available to pitch after working in each of the first three games of this series.

“I'm not going to do that to him. He's been unbelievable in doing what he's done, but he's not conditioned and built to do that,” manager Brian Snitker said of Fried. “He'll get two days off now and be ready to go in Game 5.”

The rest of the group held down the Cardinals’ lineup and allowed the Braves to tie the game in the fifth. Right-hander Luke Jackson finished the fourth, and Darren O'Day completed the fifth after Goldschmidt doubled off Jackson. Lefty Sean Newcomb worked a clean sixth. Josh Tomlin breezed through the seventh and into the eighth.

The bullpen’s lone blemish before Teheran took the mound came in the eighth. Setup man Shane Greene gave up another double to Goldschmidt, who scored when Molina’s soft liner sailed just over first baseman Freddie Freeman. Greene returned to pitch a scoreless ninth, recording five outs in his longest appearance of the season.

When the game went into extra innings, that left Snitker with Melancon and Teheran at his disposal. Snitker was holding back Melancon for a save situation and Mike Foltynewicz for Game 5, so his only option was Teheran.

Braves tab Foltynewicz for decisive Game 5

Teheran had not pitched since getting knocked out in the third inning by the Royals on Sept. 24, and he said he found out on Sunday night that he would be sent to the bullpen with Keuchel starting Game 4. The 28-year-old right-hander pitched out of the bullpen in last year’s NLDS, but he hasn’t made a regular-season relief appearance since 2012.

Teheran wound up on the mound with the game on the line. It may not have been how the Braves drew it up, but it’s where the game took them. Now, they’ll have a chance to regroup and rest their bullpen on Tuesday before Game 5.

“That’s a tough role for [Teheran] as a starting pitcher to come out of the bullpen. It’s a different feel,” outfielder Nick Markakis said. “He went out there and he tried. That’s all you can really ask.”

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.