Atlanta’s relief corps had a tough act to follow on Monday, feeling intrinsic pressure to match the greatness of starter Julio Teheran (more on him later); and for the most part, the group started out well.
Jordan Walden got first crack on the mound, striking out two and surrendering just one hit in a scoreless eighth inning.
All-Star reliever Craig Kimbrel then took the stage, allowing two walks and a base hit — loading the bases with nobody out — before rallying in big-time fashion, striking out two batters and then coercing Marlins pinch-hitter Donovan Solano into a rally-killing soft lineout.
By all appearances, the Braves had survived the worst part of the storm … only to get burned in the 10th, when Shae Simmons first gave up a bases-loaded, game-breaking RBI single from Garrett Jones — putting the score at 3-1.
Marlins closer Steve Cishek then retired the Braves 1-2-3 in the 10th, with Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton striking out to cap the night.
In his postgame media address, manager Fredi Gonzalez said the club has full confidence in Simmons (20 of 23 stellar appearances heading into Monday) against left-handers — and how the outing was a "learning curve" experience for the promising rookie.
"We feel good that he’ll give you a nice, solid inning. It just didn’t happen (on Monday)," said Gonzalez, whose Braves now sit at 54-45 for the season (one game behind the Nationals).
Doing the math, the 23-year-old Teheran (one run, four hits allowed vs. Miami) should reach the above objective sometime after his 26th birthday, a remarkable projection for a kid with only 55 major-league starts under his belt — including Monday’s 11-strikeout gem against the Marlins.
For his career, Teheran has tallied double-digit strikeouts five times, against five different clubs (Pirates, Diamondbacks, Rockies in 2013/Nationals, Marlins in 2014). Of equal importance, the Braves righty walked no more than two batters for each outing.
To label this as Teheran’s greatest pro start sounds ambitious, since he didn’t officially factor into the result. However, among the noteworthy no-decisions in his career, this was easily the most dominant performance within that realm.
"Teheran was about as good as I’ve seen him pitch in a long time," said Gonzalez. "Guess you can say that (nearly) every time he goes out."
Here are the highlights from Teheran’s no-decision masterpiece:
"Everything was working today," said Teheran, whose seasonal ERA plunged seven points to 2.64. "(I had) just one mistake (a Jarrod Saltalamacchia homer in the 5th, which broke up the no-hitter) that cost me that one run."
Gattis, who averages one homer for every 15.6 career at-bats (entering the day), is a rare bird in today’s game — a perpetually active free swinger who also hits for average (.290 on the year).
So, you can imagine how jacked up Gattis (DL stint: bulging disk in back) must have been for Monday’s game, his first MLB action since June 27.
That exuberance was evident on Gattis’s first at-bat, striking out against Marlins righty Tom Koheler in the second inning. Interestingly, that encounter immediately preceded Chris Johnson’s RBI groundout, scoring Justin Upton.