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Teheran, Braves take Miami pitchers' duel

Righty tosses six scoreless in series-clinching win
@cdenicola13
June 8, 2019

MIAMI -- Encountering trouble in a scoreless game during Saturday's sixth inning, Braves right-hander Julio Teheran turned to one of the best pitches in his arsenal: the slider. After Curtis Granderson reached on a fielding error and Garrett Cooper walked with one out, Teheran fell behind Brian Anderson, two balls,

MIAMI -- Encountering trouble in a scoreless game during Saturday's sixth inning, Braves right-hander Julio Teheran turned to one of the best pitches in his arsenal: the slider.

After Curtis Granderson reached on a fielding error and Garrett Cooper walked with one out, Teheran fell behind Brian Anderson, two balls, no strikes, before striking him out. When Teheran fanned Starlin Castro to end the threat, the right-hander celebrated as he left the mound.

Box score

Both strikeouts came on Teheran's slider, which he threw 27 times in a 1-0 victory over the Marlins at Marlins Park. Tyler Flowers’ sacrifice fly in the seventh proved to be the difference after Braves manager Brian Snitker told Teheran the club would get him a run.

"I knew that it was my last hitter. I knew I needed to make a really good pitch," said Teheran, who tossed six innings of two-hit ball with one walk and five strikeouts. "I didn't see how the ball moved, I just saw the swing and the miss because I was like, 'You've got to make your slider there.' That's part of the game. The emotions are there, especially when you have a close game and I knew it was my last couple pitches. I was like, 'You've got to throw it with everything you've got.’ I'm happy I got those results."

According to Statcast, Teheran entered Saturday throwing his slider 25.8 percent of the time. The offering has 27.1 strikeout, 36.9 whiff and 18.8 percent putaway rates.

The success of that pitch -- as well as the other four tools in his repertoire -- have led to impressive results.

Since May 5, Teheran ranks second in the Majors with a 0.70 ERA over his past seven starts, behind Dodgers southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu (0.40). Teheran has not allowed more than one earned run in each of those outings. That stretch began in South Florida, when he pitched six scoreless frames in an eventual 10-inning win.

Flowers, who has caught Teheran since joining Atlanta in 2016, believes this current stretch is reminiscent of that season, when the right-hander made the All-Star team and finished with a 3.21 ERA.

"Command would be the biggest thing," Flowers said. "It really opens up and gives him a little more margin for error on the offspeed stuff. Also, the slider, he's having a real good feel for. His two-seam fastball is really helping him, too. Make the plate seem a little bigger for the hitters and still gives him the four-seam he can run up the zone later in at-bats."

Hours before Teheran took the mound, Freddie Freeman envisioned the 1-2 veteran punch his longtime teammate could form with newly acquired Dallas Keuchel.

"He's been fantastic," Freeman said. "He's turned into a real pitcher. He knows what he's doing. He's got a game plan. He's obviously not throwing as hard as he used to when he was younger, but it's almost like his 87, 88 [mph] is more effective than when he was throwing 92, 93.

"He relies on hitting the corners, his slider [has been] unhittable his whole career. What he's been doing pretty much the whole year is fantastic. When you see him on the mound, you know we've got a real good chance to win tonight."

Between Teheran, who has spent his first nine seasons with the Braves and has a team option for 2020, and Keuchel, whose first start at Triple-A Gwinnett was rained out on Saturday, Atlanta has a pair of experienced arms to anchor a starting staff with young arms in Max Fried and Mike Soroka.

The club’s goal isn't just to return to the postseason after a taste in 2018, but to win now.

"He's a really big part of our rotation," Snitker said of Teheran. "He came to Spring Training a determined man. It's been good. You add somebody like Dallas to that mix right there, and it's got a chance to be pretty good."

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.