ATLANTA -- The Braves have had little choice but to give Julio Teheran each of their past five Opening Day starts. But as they near what would be their first division title since 2013, there is certainly reason for them to contemplate leaving the veteran right-hander off their postseason roster.Teheran's
ATLANTA -- The Braves have had little choice but to give Julio Teheran each of their past five Opening Day starts. But as they near what would be their first division title since 2013, there is certainly reason for them to contemplate leaving the veteran right-hander off their postseason roster.
Teheran's recent run of good fortune did not necessarily expire as he managed to allow just two runs while issuing a career-high six walks over just four innings of Saturday afternoon's 7-1 loss to the Nationals at SunTrust Park. Instead, it strengthened the belief he has been more lucky than good while producing a respectable 2.79 ERA over his past eight starts.
Consequently, there's further reason to wonder if the Braves would carry Teheran during the postseason. The regular season's final two weeks will influence whether he's deemed a better option than Sean Newcomb or Anibal Sanchez, the other candidates for a playoff rotation that would be fronted by Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman.
"I haven't thought about that," Teheran said. "But it is what it is. We still need to finish strong. I've got a couple outings to go. I've been feeling good my last couple outings. It's getting there. You're going to have difficult games. But I feel like I've been doing better now."
While bidding adieu to their six-game winning streak, the Braves issued 14 walks, setting the franchise record in a game consisting of nine innings or less. They also matched a season low by tallying just two hits, despite the fact Nationals starter Jeremy Hellickson was forced to exit after just three innings with a right wrist injury.
"We're winning some games with some high walk totals and eventually that will bite you and you can't let that happen," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Snitker's response was aimed at the fact his team has built a seven-game lead in the National League East, despite producing the NL's second-highest walk rate (3.80 walks per nine innings). But the gist of the message could also apply to Teheran, who has allowed three earned runs or less in eight of his past nine starts, despite issuing at least four walks in four of those outings, including the past two.
It didn't take long to realize this might not be a good day for Teheran, who was fortunate to surrender just one run despite retiring just two of the six batters faced in the first. After Trea Turner was called out when he slid past second base and was guided off the bag by Dansby Swanson's glove, Juan Soto delivered an RBI single.
Teheran really unraveled as he recorded a strike with just 17 of 36 pitches thrown during the fourth inning. He issued four walks, recorded three strikeouts and once again managed to escape having allowed just one run. But having totaled 90 pitches, his day was complete.
"When I get my velocity down, I feel like I have better command," Teheran said. "I'm trying to play with it. When you're velocity is there, you obviously want to use it. You don't want to throw a pitch with less effort than the other one. It's part of it. We're trying to fix it."
Teheran's velocity was an issue when his four-seamer averaged approximately 88 mph during a three-start stretch from Aug. 22-Sept. 2. That average has sat around 90 mph -- a comfort zone within which he's found some success the past few years -- in his past two starts. But he has issued 10 walks within the 10 innings totaled over these two outings and created more concern about the fact there are metrics that indicate he has had recent good fortune.
According to Statcast™, over the seven starts that immediately preceded Saturday's rough outing, Teheran had a .233 expected batting average, which was 0.60 points higher than the actual batting average he had surrendered. Gausman and Jake Odorizzi were the only pitchers who had a more significant difference in these two numbers within this span.
Teheran's expected slugging percentage allowed (.381) was .143 points higher than the actual percentage (.238) surrendered during this span. Gausman, Odorizzi and Tyler Glasnow were the only pitchers to have a more significant difference between these numbers that account for games since Aug. 1.
"I think he's capable," Snitker said. "I think he's just missing spots. He's not wild by any stretch. When he tries to hit spots, he doesn't give in and consequently, I think the walks go up."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Down just 2-1 through five innings, the Braves gave Touki Toussaint a chance to work a few innings in preparation for his next start. But the rookie right-hander lasted just one inning. He walked four of the nine batters faced during a three-run sixth highlighted by Anthony Rendon's two-run double. Luke Jackson and Max Fried both issued a walk while allowing the Nationals to tally a single run in both of the innings that followed.
"I thought it was a good situation right there, where we could avoid torching the other guys because he was gassed up and maybe [Toussaint] could get us a couple innings," Snitker said.
Johan Camargo missed a third straight start because of the right groin discomfort he began battling after running to first base during Tuesday's game in San Francisco. The Braves' third baseman has shown some improvement. But there's a chance he'll remain out of the lineup through at least Wednesday's game against the Cardinals.
"There's still tenderness in there," Snitker said. "I think he's getting better. But when they get him out there and run him around, there's still a shadow of something in there. I think we've just got to be really careful with it."
Making his first appearance in more than two months, Arodys Vizcaino issued the Nationals' club-record-setting 14th walk when he issued a four-pitch free pass to Adam Eaton in the ninth. But the former closer provided some encouragement as his fastball touched 99 mph and sat around 98 mph. Now, the question is whether his bothersome right shoulder will recover quickly and prove durable enough for him to possibly be deemed a reliable postseason option.
"I didn't see that velocity in the Minor League reports," Snitker said. "I wanted to get him here and see if this would spike it and it did. That was very encouraging."
Vizcaino missed June's final two weeks with shoulder discomfort and then made just three more appearances in July before beginning the two-month disabled list stint that ended on Friday.
Sean Newcomb will take the mound when the Braves and Nationals conclude their season series Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. Newcomb struggled as he made his first start of the season against Washington, but he has allowed three earned runs over his past 13 innings (two starts) against the division rivals. The Nationals will counter with Tanner Roark, who has a 4.72 ERA in 13 starts since the beginning of July.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.