Usually reliable 'pen spoils Teheran's quality start

July 23rd, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- tamed his former team but the Brewers’ bullpen isn’t perfect, after all.

Teheran, a six-time Opening Day starter for Atlanta, recovered from a recent rough patch to pitch six quality innings and was in line for the win before Ozzie Albies smacked a three-run home run off Elvis Peguero in the eighth. It sent the Brewers to a 4-2 loss to the Braves on Sunday to finish a highly entertaining series at American Family Field.

“That team is going to play in October,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We want to earn the right to play them again [in the postseason].”

The Brewers play the Braves again next weekend in Atlanta in the run-up to the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, but up first is another big series at home. The Reds come to Milwaukee beginning Monday night for the final regular-season meeting between the National League Central’s top two teams.

With the Reds winning a fifth straight game on Sunday, the Brewers’ division lead is down to a half-game because of a late-inning turnaround Sunday which gave the Braves (64-34) the series, two games to one, and dealt the Brewers (55-45) their first series loss in more than a month. Milwaukee hadn’t lost a series at American Family Field since dropping two of three to the D-backs from June 19-21.

The Brewers were 6-0-1 in series play since then, a stretch that coincides with the rise of bullpen arms like setup man Joel Payamps and the 26-year-old Peguero, who hadn’t allowed a run in his past five outings entering Sunday’s finale.

“It’s not like they’re going to be perfect every time they get the ball,” said Teheran, who needed only 78 pitches for six innings of one-run ball before yielding to the bullpen. “They’ve been amazing.”

3Albies’ 23rd home run -- the Braves’ second of the day in their 28th consecutive road game with at least one homer -- represented the first runs against a Brewers reliever since July 8 in the next-to-last game before the All-Star break. Milwaukee relievers had delivered 28 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings since then, including a scoreless seventh split between left-hander Hoby Milner and right-hander Abner Uribe on Sunday.

Brewers relievers were creeping up on a franchise record. The only longer bullpen scoreless streak in franchise history was in 1972, when a Ken Sanders-led relief corps strung together 34 2/3 straight scoreless innings. Now, that club record remains safe.

“It’s a big number,” Counsell said of the scoreless streak, “and they’ve been a big reason why we are where we’re at right now. Again, we have to point to that we’re giving them a one-run lead. Scoring two runs … is probably not going to win you a lot of games.”

After a strong stretch of scoring runs leading to the All-Star break, Brewers hitters have averaged 3.3 runs per game in three series since the All-Star break and have scored more than four runs only once in nine games. Every game has been tightly contested, and the team is hoping for a boost from MLB Pipeline’s No. 17 overall prospect, outfielder Sal Frelick, who is 4-for-6 with a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs through two games, including a 1-for-3 day Sunday in which he walked and scored in the fourth inning on Owen Miller’s sacrifice fly for a 2-1 lead.

The Brewers’ only other run came from Brice Turang’s first home run since May 14. He and Frelick had a scare in the seventh when they collided while chasing a popup in shallow right field; Turang made the catch and both players stayed in the game.

“We just have to keep getting better, and we’re going to do that,” Turang said. “We’re going to keep pushing to win games and play both ways [on pitching and defense]. Our pitching has been good.”

Teheran was very good, allowing Travis d’Arnaud’s solo home run but only two other hits through six high-quality innings. It was a bounce-back after the former Brave posted a 9.37 ERA over his previous three starts.

"His stuff was great,” Albies said. “He threw me a nasty changeup. His cutter was working great and his two-seamer. He doesn't throw hard, but when you have stuff moving like that, you can go a long ways."

Was it strange pitching against a team that employed him for nine years?

“To be honest, I was focused more on my job,” Teheran said. “I was focused on where I am right now. It’s a lot of memories, but I was focused on being a Brewer and getting my job done for my team.”