By the top of the 2nd inning on Monday night, the Atlanta Braves were staked to a 4-0 lead that they would never relinquish. Even with the stellar offensive start, however, the unquestioned star of the night was Julio Teheran.
Teheran put together the best start of his young career, throwing 8.1 innings while allowing only 5 hits, and a lone 8th-inning run on a Josh Willingham blast. The rookie was absolutely lights-out in the first 8 innings, allowing only 3 hits and 0 runs before inexplicably being asked to finish the game in the 9th inning despite throwing a would-be career high 109 pitches prior to the start of the final inning. Predictably, he ran into trouble in the 9th, but it is important to remember that Teheran was absolutely fantastic for the first 8 frames. His off-speed arsenal was outstanding, and the sharpness of his pitches was visible even to the untrained scouting eye.
The Braves exploded for 5 hits in the 1st inning, including a 3-run Dan Uggla home run, to account for the 4-run explosion, and it was a picture-perfect start. Minnesota starter Kevin Correia labored noticeably in the first, and by the time he settled down a bit, the damage was done. Uggla’s swing was incredibly encouraging for Atlanta, and his reported bat change (yes, really) seemed to work out in a big way during a night that also included a 390-foot flyout.
Justin Upton (2-4 with a walk) and Juan Francisco (2-3 with a walk) also had big nights for Atlanta, and for Francisco, it was an important, slump-busting effort. BJ Upton continued to struggle on the stat sheet, finishing 0-for-2 with a walk, but his at-bats were noticeably better and he made a few notable defensive plays during the evening. Gerald Laird was the only other Braves regular that didn’t record a hit, and Fredi Gonzalez’s decision to hit Laird 5th (in a lineup featuring Dan Uggla and Juan Francisco against a right-handed starter) remained curious.
In the end, it was the Julio Teheran show and not even the “interesting” managerial tactics of Fredi Gonzalez could upset what was a fantastic night on the mound for the youngster. Teheran may never develop into the elite “ace” that he projected to be a couple of years ago, but if he can maintain his stellar control (1 walk on Monday and 1.63 BB/9 on the season), he has a chance to continue this level of effectiveness.
The Braves will return to action on Tuesday night as Tim Hudson will square off against former Mets hurler Mike Pelfrey at 7:10 PM ET. Stay tuned.