Braves relievers have been simply dominant against the Nationals
After spotting the Nationals a four-run lead through the first two innings of this year’s season series, the Braves rallied back to claim a 6-4 victory and in the process provided an early indication of things to come. The final four innings Julio Teheran completed during his six-inning effort during that April 12 evening directed him toward the success he has had in the four months that have followed.
The four scoreless innings the Braves bullpen produced that night…well that just marked the start of the utter dominance it has produced against Washington’s disappointing offense.
The Braves bullpen has not allowed a single run in the 30 innings worked against the Nationals this year. In the process, this relief corps has surrendered nine hits, issued four walks and limited Washington to a .093 (9-for-97) batting average.
Let this one soak in for just a second: The Braves bullpen has faced 102 Washington batters this year and just 13 have reached base via a hit or a walk. Just one the nine hits surrendered was an extra-base hit – Adam LaRoche’s double against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning of Atlanta’s 2-1, 10-inning win at Turner Field.
LaRoche’s double put runners at second and third with no outs. Kimbrel escaped the jam with a strikeout, flyout and the one-out Roger Bernadina fielded before throwing to the plate to retire Ryan Zimmerman.
The Nationals have stranded a runner in scoring position during the latter portion of the two one-run losses suffered against the Braves this week. But this is not anything new. Washington has hit .183 (13-for-71) with runners in scoring position against Atlanta this season. On the flip side, Atlanta has hit .275 with runners in scoring position against the Nationals.
Timely hitting and the bullpen’s dominance have been the two key factors that have enabled the Braves to record four one-run victories on the way to winning nine of the first 12 games played against Washington.
Harper vs. Teheran: If you want to believe Julio Teheran’s take that he was simply trying to come inside with a fastball when he hit Bryce Harper last night, I would like to know if you do indeed still leave cookies out for Santa every year. Regardless, if Teheran felt the need to send a message after Harper pimped the home run he hit earlier in the night, it was encouraging to see him in the proper manner – by hitting Harper in the right thigh — and then stand tall after carrying out the deed. Click here for a recap and video of the benches-clearing incident.
As Harper understandably came out of the box expressing his displeasure, Teheran did not back down in any shape or manner as he walked toward the Nationals outfielder. Then after completing his verbal spat with Harper, Teheran kept his composure and stranded a pair of runners by retiring Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth.
Last night marked the 10th time this year Teheran allowed one run or less in a start this year. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the highest total by a Braves pitcher 22 years-old or younger since Steve Avery did so in 11 such starts during the 1992 season.
Since allowing four runs in both of his first two starts of the season, Teheran has posted a 2.57 ERA in the 20 starts that have followed. He has allowed less than two runs in each of his past four outings.
QUICK THOUGHTS: Despite allowing four runs in two of his past three outings, Kris Medlen has been encouraged by the way he has felt during the three starts he has made since the All-Star break. Thoughts have him moving to the bullpen have at least slightly diminished since Tim Hudson suffered his season-ending injury. But the fact remains that Medlen has struggled throughout much of this season. Since providing some encouragement while throwing a career-high 116 pitches in 6 2/3 innings against the Dodgers on June 8, he has posted a 5.30 ERA and allowed opponents to produce a .354 on-base percentage in the nine starts that have followed.
Along with attempting to help the Atlanta complete a series sweep and run their winning streak to 13 games tonight, Medlen will be attempting to show the Braves he can be a dependable asset down the stretch. As things stand, Mike Minor and Teheran are the only obvious guarantees to be part of Atlanta’s postseason rotation. If Medlen finishes strong, he could be added to this group. But for now, he has left the door open for Brandon Beachy, Alex Wood or Maholm to make a playoff start.
With Tuesday night’s win, the Braves moved 14 1/2 games in front of the second-place Nationals, providing them their largest division lead since Aug. 28, 2003. The last time Atlanta had a lead this great through 114 game was in 2002, when they were 18 games up in the National League East standings.
With six hits in the first 16 at-bats he has recorded since returning from the disabled list, B.J. Upton has improved his batting average from .177 to .188. At the same time he has struck out seven times. Still there have been encouraging signs as he has driven the ball to the opposite field and showed the ability to turn on a pitch like he did with his two singles last night. It is far too early to evaluate his post-DL results. But if you do, remember to account for the fact that he has faced Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez in the past three days.