Three Cuts: Teheran rebounds with complete game shutout; Braves down Brewers
MAY 20, 2014 11:05p ET
ATLANTA -- Asked before Tuesday's game against the Brewers what can lead him to believe his team is getting into a groove, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez answered flatly, "I don't know. I don't think you ever do."
But after Julio Teheran's complete game shutout and another offensive eruption fueled a 5-0 win, those signals hard to ignore.
For the third straight game, the Braves piled up at least five runs -- their longest such stretch in more than a month -- in a win that gave them the season series against National League Central-leading Milwaukee.
Here are three observations from the night at Turner Field:
1. Teheran responds with dominant performance
It was, unequivocally, Julio Teheran's worst and shortest start of his career, as he lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up four runs in the process last week in San Francisco. He complained about an inability to grip the ball in the dry weather, compromising his control.
If the act of rebounding from that outing weren't enough, minutes before he was to take the mound Tuesday, catcher Evan Gattis was a late scratch with what was called viral symptoms, putting Gerald Laird behind the palte. But Teheran put the late change and everything else behind him.
"Just forget about that one (in San Francisco) and focus on this one and I thought I did a great job," Teheran said.
Teheran threw a complete game shutout, allowing just six hits, while striking out eight and walking two. That gave him his ninth quality start, tying the Reds' Johnny Cueto, A's Sonny Gray and Yankees' Mashario Tanaka for the MLB lead with nine quality starts and he now has six games with at least two or less runs allowed.
Teheran didn't allow a base runner to third until the ninth inning, and only three times did they reach second before that (though all came via Jonathan Lucroy; once off Lyle Overbay's groundout in the second and doubles in the fourth and eighth) -- and when the Brewers did threaten, Teheran emphatically closed the door.
Jean Segura led off the ninth with a ground ball single, then two batters later, an Elian Herrera one-out base hit put Segura at third base. Teheran responded, striking out Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez to end the game and improve to 3-3 on the season.
"I told (Teheran) 'We've got a five-run lead now, let's come at these guys,'" Laird said. "'But you want to pitch. You don't just want to start laying heaters in there for them. Mix in some off-speed pitches early, be aggressive with them. Throw them in the zone, throw them for strikes and let's get ahead. When you fall behind, that's when things start to snowball and get out of whack.'
"He was good about that. We threw breaking balls early and threw them for strikes and was able to get ahead and then moved his fastball up and down. He was really good tonight."
Terehan needed 128 pitches to get through this second complete game of the season -- the other came April 16 at Philadelphia in 115 -- and tied him with Jair Jurrjens for the most completed games by any Braves pitcher in Gonzalez's four-year run as manager.
"He's proven himself to be ace of the team and he had a bad outing a couple days ago, and that's how he can bounce back like that," shortstop Andrelton Simmons said.
2. J. Upton sparking the Braves recent offensive transformation
Atlanta's RISP woes have been well documented and over analyzed, but just dig a little deeper and there was an area where it had truly struggled: that's with the bases loaded and two outs.
Heading into Tuesday, the Braves were one of only two teams with zero hits in 12 plate appearances in that situation -- the Astros were the other -- and they had generated just one RBI, that coming in Sunday's 6-5 win over the Cardinals when Jordan Schafer walked home a run.
But red-hot Justin Upton changed all that, lacing a two-run single to left field in the third inning, adding to an outburst started by Andrelton Simmons' solo home run. Two innings later, Upton homered for the third straight game, going opposite field for a one-run shot, his 12th.
"We've seen it," Gonzalez said of Upton's surge."We've seen it in April and a little bit of May and we all expect him to carry those April numbers through the course of the year and it doesn't happen. But he's heating up and good for us. It's the right moment."
Like last season, Upton had a strong April, hitting eight homers (he had 12 in '13) and similarly looked to be headed for a quiet May. He was hitting .176/.276/.294 in the month's first 14 games with one home run and one RBI. But in the past three games, he's gone 6 for 9 with the three HRs, a double and six RBI, including 3 for 4 on Tuesday night.
Upton's surge has coincided with the Braves' three-game winning streak, a stretch in which they've scored six, nine and five runs. That's the most runs they've scored in that amount of games since racking up 25 from April 12-14 in two games vs. the Nationals and one vs. the Phillies.
3. Venters given the green light to resume throwing program; Walden's return still up in air
Venters was told by team physician Dr. Gary Lourie that his elbow is structurally sound and he resume his throwing program and Gonzalez said he should be throwing bullpen sessions this weekend. He had suffered a minor setback last Wednesday in Orlando in live batting practice, his first time facing hitters since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
He has not appeared in a game since Oct. 3, 2012 after being shut down at the beginning of the '13 season with what was described as a sprained left shoulder. He attempted to treat it with an injection and rest, but pain when he tired to throw off the mound prompted another Tommy John surgery (Venters had his first as a minor leaguer in '05).
Meanwhile, Walden, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain, could still be "a while" per Gonzalez. The right-hander hasn't gained enough strength to risk injury due to his unorthodox delivery, which puts added stress on his legs.
"It's the left leg that he lands on," Gonzalez said. "So we've got to make sure that's right because if it's not that can lead into other stuff with his arm. He may be a little longer."
Walden, who has been out since May 5, has a 2.92 ERA in 12 1/3 innings, with 19 strikeouts and six walks.