Teheran shows renewed confidence in start
ATLANTA -- After being exhilarated by the walk-off homer he hit to conclude Saturday night's 5-4 win over the Pirates, Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt displayed his leadership skills when he found his good friend Julio Teheran sitting at his locker with his head down.
"I was like, 'Keep your head up, I mean you did a great job tonight," Bethancourt said. "You battled the whole night, you gave up a two-run homer and you didn't give up. You came in the next three, four innings and you shut them down. [Those are] the things I'm looking for.'"
Teheran provided the Braves exactly what they were looking for as he spent a couple hours on Saturday night proving he still is capable of being the confident and impressive pitcher that he was before this season. The 24-year-old hurler surrendered four earned runs and five hits over a season-high 7 1/3 innings. But his line was not indicative of how dominant he was before he begrudgingly handed the ball over to Atlanta's leaky bullpen.
"He looked like he had that look in his eyes tonight," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said. "He didn't care who was up. He was going right after hitters. His velo was really good. When he's got that, it's tough because he's using all his other stuff. It was fun playing behind him."
Just six days earlier, when Teheran exited a start in San Francisco with a 4.87 ERA, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez admitted he was concerned about what he was seeing from the young hurler, who entered Saturday with an average four-seam fastball velocity of 91.4 mph.
Possibly motivated by his manager's concerns, Teheran looked like a completely different pitcher as he went through the Pirates lineup with relative ease. He leaned more heavily on a four-seam fastball that sat between 91-93 mph and touched 94 mph during the early innings. His slider also had more bite than it had more recently. But more importantly, it appeared the former All-Star had his mojo back.
"I could tell he was throwing harder tonight," Bethancourt said. "I don't know if he was angry, or I don't know what, but he was throwing 94, 93 pretty much the whole night."
Teheran faced the minimum through the first three innings and then made a mistake with a slider that Andrew McCutchen drilled for a game-tying, two-run homer in the fourth. The Braves hurler then retired the next 12 batters he faced before ending his night by allowing two straight one-out single in the eighth. Setup man Jim Johnson allowed both inherited runners to score on Gregory Polanco's game-tying single.
Gonzalez walked toward the mound to signal Johnson in from the bullpen, Teheran was visibly upset and seemingly wanted Andrelton Simmons or Bethancourt to give the ball to his manager.
"Well that's what you want," Gonzalez said. "You don't want guys to meet you halfway down to the dugout when you go out there or, you know, keep looking in. So he pitches and we make decisions and like I said, it wasn't an easy decision."
Though he wasn't given a chance to earn what would have been a much-deserved win, Teheran at least exited this outing with reason to hope the next four months will be different than the past two.
"I was trying to be aggressive and attack the zone," Teheran said. "That's something I figured out I had been doing in the past, and this year I wasn't doing."