NEW YORK -- As the Braves debate whether to put Julio Teheran in their postseason rotation, they must ask whether he should be judged on his recent results or the metrics that indicate his recent success has been aided by good fortune.Teheran made one last good impression as he auditioned
NEW YORK -- As the Braves debate whether to put Julio Teheran in their postseason rotation, they must ask whether he should be judged on his recent results or the metrics that indicate his recent success has been aided by good fortune.
Teheran made one last good impression as he auditioned for the National League Division Series rotation during Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Mets at Citi Field. But the offense's struggles against Jason Vargas prevented the Braves from maintaining their lead in the battle for home-field advantage in the NLDS.
"I feel really good," Teheran said. "That's the way I wanted to finish the regular season. The last two months I've felt really good. I've always said it's not how you start, it's how you finish."
Devin Mesoraco's three-run homer in the seventh off Brad Brach served as a crushing blow to the Braves, who now know their NLDS opponent will be the winner of the NL West, which the Rockies currently lead by one game over the Dodgers. Colorado also has an identical record as Atlanta and owns the tiebreaker if these two teams match results over the final three games.
Braves manager Brian Snitker plans to play all of his regulars throughout this weekend's series in Philadelphia. Vargas threw seven scoreless innings against a starting lineup that did not include Ender Inciarte or Freddie Freeman, who rested until he pinch-hit and struck out with two on to end the game.
"I want to play the guys this weekend because then we'll have some days off," Snitker said. "Today was scheduled."
Kevin Plawecki's third-inning leadoff homer accounted for the only run Teheran surrendered over six innings. The Braves right-hander surrendered just two hits and issued two walks. He has posted a 3.15 ERA and limited opponents to a .170 batting average over his past 11 starts. But he has also walked a fine line while issuing 4.3 walks per nine innings within this span.
A quick look at Teheran's numbers over the past two months provides reason to argue he is a better candidate than left-hander Sean Newcomb, who had a 7.44 ERA over a seven-start span before recording five scoreless innings against the Mets on Wednesday. The other candidate is Touki Toussaint, who may be a better long-relief option with just five career starts under his belt.
The opponent may influence the Braves' decision, but Snitker admitted he has a good sense of whom he will choose to fill the final spot within his four-man playoff rotation.
"We've played 159 games and I think there's a lot of credence in what we've done up until now," Snitker said. "This isn't tryout camp. You want to see some guys and get them in there. But I think the total body of work speaks for itself."
Teheran limited opponents to a .196 batting average -- the lowest batting average against in franchise history, besting the record (.197) Greg Maddux set in 1995. But he also issued 4.3 walks per nine innings -- the 13th-highest rate produced in a season by any qualified starter in Atlanta history (since 1966).
Teheran hasn't necessarily created an abundance of confidence with what he has shown during this successful stretch. Per Statcast™, the Braves' Opening Day starter entered Thursday with an expected batting average allowed of .224 over his past 10 starts. The .047 difference from his actual batting average allowed was the seventh-highest difference among pitchers who have thrown at least 500 pitches dating back to July 30.
The .107 difference between Teheran's expected slugging percentage allowed (.388) and actual slugging percentage allowed ranked as the fourth-highest difference within this same time period.
With this in mind, the Braves have to wonder if there will be a regression to the mean. But given their other options, they may simply have to have faith Teheran is capable of extending his success into October.
"They still have to make a decision," Teheran said. "But I'm happy with the way I finished."
Jesse Biddle's postseason roster candidacy faded over the past couple of weeks and then was further weakened as he allowed a Jay Bruce single and walked Todd Frazier ahead of the homer Mesoraco hit off Brach in the seventh.
Biddle established himself as a reliable reliever most of the summer, but he has retired just one of the past five batters he has faced. He has allowed eight hits while issuing six unintentional walks over his past 6 1/3 innings.
Brach hasn't been much better, allowing 10 hits and issuing two walks over his past 7 1/3 innings.
The best bets to be in the Braves' bullpen during the NLDS are Arodys Vizcaino, Chad Sobotka, A.J. Minter, Jonny Venters, Sam Freeman and Shane Carle. The top candidates for what may be two more available spots are Brach, Toussaint and Max Fried, who might become a more intriguing candidate than Toussaint to be the long-relief option.
Ryan Flaherty's third-inning single snapped an 0-for-22 skid that dated back to July 8. Flaherty was designated for assignment in August and his start on Thursday was just his second since the All-Star break. But with Dansby Swanson questionable for the NLDS, the veteran utility player may be placed on the NLDS roster as the only backup middle infielder. More >
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Ronald Acuna Jr. delivered an RBI single in the eighth against Drew Smith. But the consecutive two-out singles he and Ozzie Albies produced in the sixth went to waste when Mets shortstop Amed Rosario made a sensational diving stop of Nick Markakis' sharp grounder and threw him out at first.
Mike Foltynewicz will make his final tuneup for the postseason when he takes the mound for Friday's series opener against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Foltynewicz is expected to be Atlanta's Game 1 starter in the NLDS. He has a 2.60 ERA over his past 10 starts. The Phillies will be looking to snap an eight-game losing streak with the help of Jerad Eickhoff, who is making his first start of 2018. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.