Braves’ Teheran hopes for home improvement vs. Pirates

ATLANTA — The Wednesday start may be the most important of the season for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Trevor Williams.

With the injured player he replaced in the rotation on the verge of returning, the right-hander will be under the microscope when he takes the mound against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park.

Williams (2-3, 6.04 ERA) will make his 10th appearance and fourth start when he faces Atlanta ace Julio Teheran (3-4, 5.47 ERA) in the third game of the four-game series. The Braves won the first two games, including a 6-5, walk-off victory Tuesday.

Williams might be in danger of losing his role to Jameson Taillon, who has been out after undergoing surgery for testicular cancer. Taillon threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday and moved a step closer to being reactivated.

“We’re very encouraged,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “Take it one step at a time. This was the next step in the progression to get him out there and throw a 25-pitch bullpen. We’ll map something out from here. I know he was happy to get on the mound and got some good news today that will allow him to return to form with pitch progression.”

Taillon was 2-1 with a 3.31 ERA in six starts before being sidelined.

Williams is 1-2 with a 6.59 in his three starts since joining the rotation. In 13 2/3 innings as a starter, he has allowed 12 runs, 10 earned, on 15 hits, four walks and six strikeouts. He lost his most recent start to the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday despite going a season-long 5 2/3 innings and allowing three runs.

Williams has made one relief appearance against the Braves. He retired six of the seven batters he faced and struck out four in two scoreless innings on April 9.

Teheran will try to rectify his problems at home. In four road starts, he is 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA. But when Teheran pitches at Sun Trust Park, he is 1-4 with a 10.50 ERA. In his last outing at home on Thursday, Teheran gave up nine runs in three innings against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Teheran is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in eight career appearances, seven starts, against Pittsburgh. He received no decision against the Pirates on April 9, allowing two unearned runs over seven innings.

“I don’t feel different when I’m pitching, but we’re seeing the results and it’s not what I want, especially compared to what I do on the road,” Teheran said. “We’re still looking at what’s going on and hopefully it gets better, because it’s our stadium and that’s where I want to feel more comfortable.”

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker tried to help Teheran by sliding knuckleballer R.A. Dickey ahead of him in the rotation. Snitker hoped the off-speed offerings of Dickey might leave the Pittsburgh bats confused when they face Teheran the next day.

Hurdle doesn’t subscribe to the theory that a knuckleballer will leave a team in a daze.

“Two or three at-bats against a knuckleballer, you can flush in a heartbeat,” the Pittsburgh manager said. “You’re so used to 94-95 (mph) from a reliever, and I don’t think the space of time you have with a knuckleballer will have any lasting hangover effect for me.”