Last time out, Julio Teheran was roughed up by the Padres, allowing three homers in four innings. Showing sub-90 mph velocity, Teheran landed on the Disabled List. On Sunday afternoon, he returned with a vengeance, hurling six no-hit innings and collecting a whopping 11 strikeouts in his best start of the season.
Showing renewed life with a fastball that hung around 92 mph (well above his season average, and faster than the average in his most amped-up start so far), Teheran carved up the San Diego lineup. He got into a bit of hot water to begin the game, allowing a leadoff walk and later hitting Jose Pirela with a pitch, but notched consecutive strikeouts with a runner on third (the latter coming on a very questionable call) to deny the Padres an early run. After that, he went on a tear. He struck out the side, all swinging, in the second. The third started with a strikeout and ended with two weak groundouts. Two more strikeouts followed in the fourth, and Teheran finally allowed a couple of fly balls that didn’t find any grass or dirt in the fifth after starting that frame with another punchout. He finished a stretch of 15 straight batters retired with another K to start the sixth.
Teheran’s streak was snapped by a couple of one-out walks in the sixth. However, the Padres bailed him out as, after the first such walk, Travis Jankowski overslid the second base bag on a steal attempt and was called out. After the second walk of the inning, Teheran struck out Jose Pirela to complete his outing. While it was not immediately clear why he did not come out for the seventh to continue his no-hit bid, there may have been a minor injury associated with his follow-through on the very last pitch he made to Pirela. The team has not yet commented; stay tuned for more. Teheran had thrown 95 pitches to that point and was well into his third foray through the lineup, so injury may or may not have been the reason for his departure.
Meanwhile, Braves hitters fared somewhat better against the assortment of bullpen arms the Padres deployed. They got nothing off of Matt Strahm, who actually faced five batters in the first despite three consecutive strikeouts, as Freddie Freeman reached on a wild pitch swinging strike three, and Nick Markakis hit an infield single. However, Kurt Suzuki flew out to end the two-out rally, and left the game after the next half-inning when he was hit by the bat of Raffy Lopez on a whiff that ended the frame.
In the third, after Charlie Culberson reached on a Strahm fielding error, the Padres removed their lefty “starter” from the game in favor of Jose Castillo, who retired Freddie Freeman on the first pitch to send the game to the fourth. However, Castillo was unable to keep the Braves’ bats further in check. Tyler Flowers hit a one-out single in the fourth and moved to second as Castillo faltered by walking Ender Inciarte (who lacked the platoon advantage versus the southpaw Castillo). That set up a Johan Camargo double into the left field corner on a hanging first-pitch slider that scored the first two runs of the game. Unfortunately, Camargo ended up stranded at second as both Ryan Flaherty and Julio Teheran grounded out. Craig Stammen then faced the minimum through two innings, as a Nick Markakis leadoff single in the sixth was erased thanks to a Tyler Flowers double play ball.
With Teheran departing the game, the Braves gave the ball to Shane Carle, who made things interesting in the seventh. Carle struck out Hunter Renfroe to start the inning, but then allowed back-to-back hard liners to put runners on first and second. However, Carle battled out of it, striking out pinch-hitter Matt Szczur and then eliciting a groundout from Raffy Lopez. Despite a pinch-hit two-out double from Ozzie Albies against Padres sidearming reliever Adam Cimber, the Braves were unable to extend their lead further, as Dansby Swanson’s hard line drive was flagged down in center field by Jankowski.
The Braves tabbed A.J. Minter with eighth inning duties, and the drama continued. Minter allowed a leadoff seeing eye single, struck out Jankowski, and then had Eric Hosmer fight off a high cutter and hit another grounder against the shift, putting runners on the corners. The Braves stuck with Minter despite the right-handed-hitting Franmil Reyes coming up to the dish. Minter fell behind 3-0 but eventually got Reyes to hit a generic sacrifice fly to right, cutting the lead to 2-1. Minter struck out Renfroe with a 2-2 fastball down Broadway to end the threat.
With Brad Hand in the game for the Friars, the Braves finally extended their cushion, thanks to a Tyler Flowers two-run mammoth home run to center field after a Nick Markakis double over Renfroe’s head in right field. While those runs were ultimately meaningless, they provided some prophylactic relief for the misadventures of Arodys Vizcaino in the ninth, as the Braves’ closer allowed back-to-back singles to lead off the game. Vizcaino then dispatched Christian Villanueva on three pitches and Lopez on four thanks to some effective sliders. Then, with two outs, Reyes lifted a ball to right field that was caught by a diving Nick Markakis, giving the Braves a hard-fought series win against the Padres.
With the Nationals being swept in Toronto this weekend, the Braves’ division lead now moves to 3.5 games. The Braves are off tomorrow before heading north to Canada for their own series with the Blue Jays.
The new-look top of the order in Albies’ absence did not pay dividends for Brian Snitker: the wonder twin duo of Dansby Swanson and Charlie Culberson went 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. The Braves collected 17 strikeouts in the game; Teheran’s eleven were his most since his last start of the 2016 season and one off his career high of 12. It was the first zero-hit outing of Teheran’s career. Nick Markakis collected three hits; Tyler Flowers went 2-for-3 with the aforementioned homer off Hand after replacing Suzuki at catcher. No Brave beyond Markakis, Flowers, Camargo, and Albies (who stayed in the game after his pinch-hit double) collected a hit; Inciarte was the only other hitter to reach base via walk. Braves pitching held the Padres without an extra-base hit in the game. Flowers’ homer was only the fourth Brad Hand has surrendered all season, and the only homer he’s allowed on the road so far.