ATLANTA -- When Julio Teheran returned from the disabled list to dazzle the Padres last weekend, there was some hope his short break would provide long-term benefits. But less than a week later, it appears that start might have simply created further reason for the Braves to be frustrated by his inconsistencies.
Six days after holding the Padres hitless over six innings, Teheran returned to the mound at SunTrust Park on Saturday and endured his worst start of the season. He surrendered a grand slam to Mark Trumbo before recording an out and exited after nearly forfeiting another slam during the fifth inning of the Braves' 7-5 loss to the Orioles.
"Sometimes, you have the stuff, and you do good," Teheran said. "Sometimes, you don't have your stuff, and you still do good. This was just a bad day. It doesn't mean it's going to lead to struggles."
Teheran endured extended scuffles through the first couple of months last season, while he simultaneously proved to be one of the game's most effective starting pitchers. Through this year's first 15 starts, he has completed at least six scoreless innings four times while also has allowed at least five runs three times. It's long been recognized he doesn't have the stuff to be a legit front-line starter, but as the 27-year-old hurler progresses through his sixth season, he won't define his value until he gains more consistency.
"At the end of the day, it's baseball," Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said. "It's a tough game to be consistent in. He'll make the adjustment. He's a true pro. He's really, really good. He has great stuff, and we trust him every time he goes out there."
As Teheran allowed the Orioles a season-high seven earned runs and and six hits in 4 2/3 innings, he certainly didn't look like the same guy who had recorded 11 strikeouts while keeping the Padres hitless over six innings last Sunday.
When Teheran went on the disabled list with a right thumb contusion earlier this month, he got the rest necessary to address concerns that developed as his average fastball velocity dipped below 90 mph. But it appears he's at his best when he's able to consistently command his pitches while the average velocity rests between 91-92 mph.
"It's different for me," Teheran said. "When I feel my fastball is coming out, it gets me excited. Sometimes, you've got to concentrate and throw pitches instead of just throwing the ball. I don't like to be out there throwing the ball as hard as I can, because that's not pitching."
Whether he was feeling good or possibly trying to impress his former pitching coach Roger McDowell, who filled the same role in the Orioles' dugout, Teheran certainly wasn't pitching within his comfort zone as his four-seam fastball touched 95.2 mph and averaged 93.9 mph during the first inning.
The results were disastrous as he issued a pair of walks around a double to Adam Jones, then gave up Trumbo's grand slam on an elevated 93.4 mph fastball.
"At 91-92 [mph], his command is better," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It seems like his feel for all the other pitches is better. That's good enough. There are plenty of guys who pitch at 91-92. That's plenty good if you know where it's going, and he does."
Teheran followed Trumbo's slam by retiring 12 of the next 13 batters he faced. But even after his average velocity dropped back closer to his comfort zone, he surrendered three straight singles to open the fifth, followed by Chris Davis drilling a 3-0 fastball high off the right-center field wall for a two-out, three-run double that was just a few feet away from being the Orioles' second slam.
"[After] the first inning, you have time to come back," Snitker said. "He got it going. The three-run double was the one that really hurt."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Last real threat: Nick Markakis tallied a first-inning RBI single against Dylan Bundy, then added a two-run double in the seventh inning. But after Ozzie Albies notched his career-high fourth hit to help the Braves mount a rally in the eighth, Markakis stranded a pair of runners when he went down looking at a 96.8 mph fastball Mychal Givens painted at the knees on the outside corner.
When the Braves suffered a 15-inning, series-opening loss on Friday night, they tallied a six-run ninth that included Markakis' game-tying double.
"Losing is tough anytime, regardless of how it goes," Swanson said. "I think the past two days, just not being able to come through at the right times. When the hype gets built up when certain situations arise and we're not able to capitalize, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But I think time and time again, we've proven we can do it."
Bundy did not record an out on May 8 against the Royals, allowing seven earned runs. After allowing Markakis' RBI single, his first-inning ERA stands at 8.40, which is now lower than Teheran's (9.00). Teheran has allowed a first-inning run in seven of his 15 starts.
HE SAID IT
"He was deceptive. When you throw competitive strikes, it keep hitters off balance. When you do that consistently throughout the whole order, it can make it tough on hitters." -- Swanson on Bundy, who allowed just two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings
Brandon McCarthy (5-3, 4.89 ERA) will rejoin Atlanta's rotation when the Braves and Orioles conclude their three-game series Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET at SunTrust Park. McCarthy, who has a 6.26 ERA over his past eight starts, will start for the first time since June 15. His role was in limbo until Mike Soroka was placed on the disabled list. Baltimore will counter with David Hess (2-3, 4.82), who has allowed five earned runs in three of his first seven career starts, including both of his past two.