ATLANTA -- As Julio Teheran's struggles extended into August, he began focusing on the opportunity to end this season much like he did in 2015, when he concluded a frustrating campaign with an encouraging finish that gave him confidence heading into what proved to be a successful '16 season.
Teheran's inconsistencies over the past few years have been maddening. But the Braves' veteran has consistently shown resolve in the face of adversity. He has made some encouraging steps over the past month, and when seemingly destined for disaster again during the first inning of Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Mets, he minimized damage and managed to construct a respectable outing.
"I think the way I'm finishing my last month or month and a half, that's the way I did it in 2015, when I finished strong," Teheran said. "That's something I took into the next season and that's my mindset -- to finish strong and then whatever I'm doing now, I'll try to do next season."
After producing a 5.25 ERA though his first 23 starts, Teheran began to turn things around. The 26-year-old right-hander regained the feel for his slider after he took something off of it during a scoreless outing against the dangerous Rockies lineup at Coors Field.
Teheran has posted a 2.40 ERA in the seven starts since, including that outing in Denver. His walk rate (3.60 walks per nine innings) through this span has continued to be a concern. But he has shown the capability to either minimize damage or make quick adjustments, much like he did when he issued three walks and registered a strike with just 14 of the 28 first-inning pitches thrown on Sunday.
After surrendering two runs in that frustration-filled first, Teheran held the Mets scoreless over the remainder of his six-inning effort and retired 11 of the final 13 batters faced. He might have proven perfect after issuing a third-inning leadoff walk had Ozzie Albies not booted Robert Gsellman's two-out grounder, which was followed by Norichika Aoki's single in the fourth. He concluded his outing by snagging a sharp line drive hit right back at him by Juan Lagares.
"He's been really good," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's fought through some issues and things and made some adjustments. I know they have worked in the bullpen on his delivery and it's sharpened things up a little bit."
As the Braves plan for next season and attempt to project what kind of value Teheran could bring to the rotation, they can be encouraged by the fact he does seem to be following a path similar to the one navigated two years ago.
After producing a 4.62 ERA through his first 27 starts in 2015, Teheran posted a 1.62 ERA over his final six starts. He carried that strong finish into the following season, when he compiled a 3.21 ERA over 30 starts and provided some indication of being a stabilizing presence in an evolving Braves rotation.
"I'm happy with the way I've been doing over the past month," Teheran said. "I think I've been throwing the ball the way I want to throw. It's sad when you think it's been almost the whole season and now this is when you start feeling better."