The Atlanta Braves took the field on a blustery Wednesday night in Philadelphia. The wind was blowing straight in from center field, knocking down everything that threatened to clear the fences. Well almost everything, but I’ll get to that later. The real story of the game was the pitching duel between the Phillies’ Cliff Lee and the Braves’ Julio Teheran.
Cliff Lee is what I would call an “Aging Ace,” a 35-year-old pitcher that’s really given the Braves fits in the past. However, his stat lines this year so far haven’t matched up with his ~3.00 ERA over the last 3 years. Meanwhile, Teheran has had a great start for the Braves, giving up less than 2 earned runs in all 3 of his early games. Fans expected a close pitching battle between these two hurlers, and they weren’t disappointed.
The first three innings, both pitchers had their great stuff working, allowing no runs. Then, Evan Gattis came to the plate in the 4th. With one mighty swing, Gattis untied the game on a solo homer to left field. It was made all the more impressive by the fact that the wind was blowing in his face like a gale. Meanwhile, Atlanta managed to wrack up 11 hits, but that one lone homer was the sum total of their offense. I thought about this problem as I watched the game. On days where the home run ball isn’t an option, the Braves look totally lost trying to manufacture runs. With 11 hits, a normal team should at least score 3 runs, minimum. The Braves RISP hitting continues to be an issue, and I suppose we’re all going to have to live with it if they can go yard.
Teheran was the story of the game. He had a perfect game going until the 5th, when Ryan Howard, of all people, legged out an infield single. He then pitched a two-hit shutout through the 8th inning. At this point, I expected Fredi Gonzalez to take him down in favor of Kimbrel. Fredi’s done that many times, so I was a little surprised when he let Julio take the field to attempt the complete game shut-out. It also still worries me a bit about Kimbrel’s supposed shoulder soreness, since Craig wasn’t even warming in the pen with Avilan and Carpenter.
Julio got the first two outs in the 9th with some good defense behind him, but then Rollins got on base with a single. That brought Chase Utley to the plate with the game on the line, and two outs. Rollins is a fast runner, which meant Julio had to hold him and make good pitches to the Phillies hottest hitter. Not an easy spot by any stretch. Rollins ended up stealing 2nd on a 3-0 count in a really dangerous move, but the pitch was called a strike. That mean it went 3-1 to Utley, and on the next pitch he grounded out to 2nd, ending the game. Julio Teheran won a pitcher’s duel with Cliff Lee in a complete game shutout. Both pitchers went 9 innings. No relievers were used. It was one of the purest one-on-one battles you’re likely to see, with Gattis’ homer as the difference.
So in the end, Julio Teheran set two career highlights: his first career complete game, and his first shutout. The game cruised along as the fastest played by the Braves this season, finishing in 2 hours, 29 minutes. The Braves hit 0-7 with RISP and managed to win the game. It was a fun game to witness, and a head-scratcher that the Braves emerged victorious when you really think about it. That’s all due to Julio Teheran. He pitched a gem, and he gets the player of the game. It’s as good as I’ve ever seen him pitch, and we all should hope to see it a lot more.
Braves take on the Phillies once more this series in a day game tomorrow. AJ Burnett will go against Alex Wood. Don’t miss the Braves chance at another sweep!