Blue Jays-Braves finale could turn ugly (May 18, 2017)

ATLANTA — Nerves will be on edge Thursday when the Atlanta Braves try for a sweep of a four-game, home-and-home interleague series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Braves won’t have slugger Freddie Freeman in the lineup after he was hit on the inside of the left wrist by a pitch on Wednesday.

The Blue Jays are frustrated after giving up 27 runs in three straight losses. The Braves are upset about potentially losing Freeman for a while and what happened late in their 8-4 victory Wednesday.

Freeman, who is batting .341 and leads the National League with 14 homers, had X-rays taken Wednesday, and the Braves said the results were inconclusive. He will have more tests on his wrist Thursday.

“When your best player goes down, and he’s hit in kind of a freak spot, you’re just hoping for the best,” said Atlanta catcher Kurt Suzuki, who capped a six-run first inning Wednesday with a three-run homer.

It was the seventh time that a Braves player was hit by a pitch thrown by a Blue Jay in the three games, and tempers flared twice in the late innings.

The final time came after Toronto’s Jose Bautista did a bat flip after hitting an eighth-inning homer with his team down by five runs.

The long ball came off reliever Eric O’Flaherty, who took verbal shots at Bautista afterward.

“I’m surprised he’s ready to fight after last year,” said O’Flaherty, referring to the punch Bautista took to the chin from the Texas Rangers’ Rougned Odor.

While O’Flaherty was stirring things up even more postgame, Bautista tried to calm things down a little.

“Basically just let them know that I wasn’t trying to show up anybody and hopefully it’s in the past,” Bautista said. “It was definitely not something that was fitting for the moment.”

With all that has transpired, Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (3-3, 4.08 ERA) and Toronto’s Marcus Stroman (3-2, 3.38 ERA) will try to bring order on Thursday.

Teheran pitched like a No. 1 starter in his last start at Miami on Saturday, when he threw six shutout innings in a 3-1 victory. Now the right-hander has to show he can get back on track at SunTrust Park. He has given up 17 runs over 15 innings in three consecutive home losses.

Teheran won his first start at the Braves’ new suburban ballpark, beating the New York Mets as part of an impressive three-game stretch to start the season. Since then, though, the two-time All-Star mostly struggled before he shut down the Marlins.

He has allowed six homers, 22 hits and seven walks in his three straight home losses.

“Couple of years ago it was the other way, I was having trouble on the road,” Teheran said. “Hopefully we’ll get everything together. I know home has been a little weird, but I don’t want to put that in my mind. It’s a new stadium, everything is new for everybody.”

Teheran hasn’t fared well in interleague games. The right-hander is 3-8 with a 4.87 ERA in 14 games against the American League and has a 6.60 ERA in three no-decisions against the Blue Jays.

Stroman has never faced the Braves, but he has thrived over his interleague appearances in contrast. He is 5-1 with a 2.18 ERA in in 11 games (eight starts) vs. the National League.

The right-hander is coming off a 7-2 home victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday. He worked six innings of two-run ball, his sixth quality start in eight outings this season.

The Blue Jays swept the four-game series against the Mariners and had won five straight before facing the Braves. Since then, everything has unraveled.

“Guys are frustrated,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “Those guys have taken it to us the last couple days.”