Wood and Teheran exited D.C. in differing fashion

As the Braves attempt to distance themselves from a frustrating weekend that might have been pleasurable had Jason Grilli’s back not suddenly become cranky, there was reason to be encouraged by the way Alex Wood concluded Sunday’s six-inning effort.

If simply looking at the fact that Wood surrendered three runs over 6 2/3 innings, you are ignoring why he should enter this upcoming weekend’s start against the Marlins with renewed confidence.  After being doomed by Cameron Maybin’s misplay (hometown hit, if you were scoring at home) of Bryce Harper’s first-inning, two-out double, the Braves southpaw surrendered four hits and issued one walk over his final 5 2/3 innings.

Wood threw exactly 100 pitches, but he did not need more than 11 pitches to complete any of his final five complete innings.  Along with finally finding more comfort with his sinker, he seemed to have a better feel for his changeup, a pitch he utilized a season-high 16 percent of the time on Sunday.

As Wood concluded this series finale in impressive fashion, he finally started to look like he had when he posted a 1.92 ERA while completing at least seven innings in seven of his final 11 starts last season. His inability to gain a feel for his sinker and changeup had led him to produce a 4.32 ERA in the six starts he had made leading into Sunday.

You can break down the Braves’ encouraging offensive production and also attempt to figure out how their bullpen might improve.  But really the most important aspect of this club to monitor of the next couple weeks is whether Wood and Julio Teheran can both get on a roll at the same time.

Teheran halted his recent woes last week against the Reds and then surrendered two costly homers during Saturday’s loss to the Nationals.  Was his latest ugly pitching line (six runs, 10 hits and three walks in six innings) simply a product of two bad pitches or an extension of the growing pains the 23-year-old hurler has experienced so far this season?

There were some encouraging signs that developed during Saturdays’ outing for Teheran.  He threw first pitch strikes to a season-best 69 percent of the batters he faced; his four-seam fastball touched 95 mph and he produced a season-best 13.4 swinging strike rate.

But for the second time in less than two weeks, he surrendered a double-digit hit total to the boys from D.C. Teheran has allowed at least 10 hits in just six of his 74 career starts.  The Nationals have accounted for four of these occasions (twice this year) and Coors Field served as the environment for one of the others.

Maybe Teheran needs to alter his plan of attack against the Nationals in the future.  Or maybe he simply needs to alter his approach against Jose Lobaton, Washington’s  31-year-old backup catcher who can thank Teheran for the only two home runs he has tallied over his past 145 at-bats, dating back to June 5.

The good news is that barring a trade, Lobaton will not be wearing a Marlins uniform this weekend, when Teheran attempts to prove that this past Saturday’s outing was more a product of misfortune than it was a resumption of the struggles he has encountered through this season’s first five weeks.

As Teheran and Wood have struggled this year, Shelby Miller has established himself as the staff’s ace.  When Miller opens this week’s three-game series against the Reds, he will  attempt to pick up where he left off last week, when he baffled the Phillies during a three-hit shutout.

Dating back to Aug. 23 — when he first started using his sinker on a regular basis, Miller leads all National League pitchers (min. 12 starts) with a 1.88 ERA.  During the two starts he has made against the Reds within this span, he has completed 14 innings and surrendered just two runs.

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