ATLANTA -- It appears the theme for the Braves' season might have been presented on Opening Day. The five-run, sixth-inning deficit Julio Teheran suddenly encountered that afternoon seemed like a distant memory once Nick Markakis sunk the Phillies with a walk-off home run.Six months later, the Braves are still routinely overcoming
ATLANTA -- It appears the theme for the Braves' season might have been presented on Opening Day. The five-run, sixth-inning deficit Julio Teheran suddenly encountered that afternoon seemed like a distant memory once Nick Markakis sunk the Phillies with a walk-off home run.
Six months later, the Braves are still routinely overcoming adversity, and the Phillies are regretting the inability to take advantage of the potential prosperity that materialized as the heavily favored Nationals became also-rans in the National League East race.
Nearly all of the lingering drama in this race faded as the Braves spotted the Phillies a three-run lead and then immediately erased their deficit during the decisive five-run seventh inning of Friday night's 6-5 win at SunTrust Park.
"I always say there's an 'it factor' with teams," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "You don't know how they get it, but when you've got it, it's really something special. You can't manufacture it. It's nothing you can put together. It's not something I can give as a manager. Some teams just have it. It's a fun thing to be around."
Widely considered to be a year ahead of schedule, the resilient and overachieving Braves are now possibly less than 24 hours away from celebrating a division crown. They sit 7 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Phillies, and their magic number is two with eight games remaining. The Nationals were eliminated Friday night.
"We're just taking it one game at a time," Braves third baseman Johan Camargo said through an interpreter. "Tomorrow is just another day. I think we're just going out there to have fun and enjoy the moment."
The Braves lost 13 of 18 at one point in July and then proceeded to win 14 of their next 18. They blew a six-run eighth-inning lead during a Sept. 5 loss to the Red Sox and then seized a strong division lead by winning seven of their next eight. They entered this series having lost 14 of their past 18 road games.
But when their backs have been pushed against the wall, the Braves have frequently responded much like they did on Friday, when Teheran's impressive start was marred by Ronald Acuna Jr.'s defensive miscue during a three-run seventh. Ozzie Albies cut into the deficit with a two-run homer off Pat Neshek, who allowed four earned runs while recording just one out in the bottom half of the seventh. Lucas Duda beat the shift with a key single, and Ender Inciarte greeted former Brave Luis Avilan with a game-tying double. Avilan's seven-pitch battle against Camargo ended when the third baseman laced a changeup to left to create a lead that would not be squandered.
"There was just so much heart and grit and determination and desire and all the adjectives right there with what those guys did," Snitker said. It's what these guys are all about. They never quit. They're never down. We always work the game to give them a chance. I think if we can keep the game manageable, we've seen all year these guys don't quit. There's unbelievable fight in each and every one of them. It's a really cool thing to see and be a part of."
Camargo was not able to understand the translation when asked whether the Braves have the "it factor." But after a few moments, the smiling third baseman replied, "We are a family and that's it."
Teheran had recently created concern as his velocity dropped and his walk rate increased. But showing his own sense of resiliency, the right-hander provided an effort that at least strengthened his bid to fill the final spot in what would be a four-man playoff rotation. He surrendered Cesar Hernandez's leadoff homer and then retired 14 of the next 15 batters faced.
With his four-seam fastball averaging 90.8 mph and an effective curveball complementing his slider, Teheran pitched around J.P. Crawford's sixth-inning leadoff triple and attempted another escape after putting two on with one out in the seventh. But once Acuna initially broke in, he was unable to recover and prevent Wilson Ramos from recording a two-run double. Jose Bautista's RBI single chased the Atlanta hurler, who allowed four runs over 6 1/3 innings.
"Those things happen," Camargo said. "It's baseball. Those things never lead us to judge the quality of the team we have. The same thing happened to me in Arizona, where the team picked me up as well. We never take those things too seriously. We keep fighting. It was important for us to show Acuna and everybody else we've got their back."
• Albies' two-run shot was his 23rd homer of the season, but just his third within a span of 218 at-bats going back to July 13. Prior to that, the All-Star second baseman had 20 homers through his first 393 at-bats of the season.
• Teheran stands with Mike Leake, Jonathan Lester, Max Scherzer and Jose Quintana as the only pitchers to make at least 30 starts over each of the past six seasons.
• Against NL East teams, the Braves have gone 45-23 and the Phillies have gone 32-39.
HE SAID IT
"If they played in the seventh game of the World Series, it won't be any different than it was right there. The fans were unbelievable. They have been all year. They have supported these guys. Tonight was no exception." -- Snitker
Mike Foltynewicz will take the mound when the Braves resume their four-game series against the Phillies on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Foltynewicz is coming off one of his worst starts of the season, having allowed six earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings against the Cardinals. But he has posted a 2.62 ERA over his past nine starts. Philadelphia will counter with Jacob Arrieta, who has a 6.03 ERA over his past seven starts.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.