Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Braves swept by Mets, as Teheran is latest starter to struggle


NEW YORK -- There has been a significant market correction since the torn-down-and-patched-up Braves won six of their first seven games. That's not surprising.

The everyday lineup of spare parts is struggling to score runs and the dinged up bullpen is struggling to hold leads -- or even hold onto the ledge. That's also not surprising

But the Braves' biggest concern at this early stage of the season isn't the offense or the bullpen. It's the starting pitching.

The Braves lost to the New York Mets 6-3 Thursday. Actually, they were swept in the series by the Mets, who have now won a franchise record 11 straight and therefore are killing Mets jokes across the nation (at least in April).

The problem in this game has been a problem in many games: a starter couldn't last six innings. Or even five.

Julio Teheran threw 102 pitches, which can be good, but he squeezed them into only 4 1/3 innings, which is never good. He walked five and allowed four runs (only three hits but one was a bases-loaded double).

Teheran's difficulty in locating the strike zone and failing to provide the Braves with a solid start continues a disturbing trend. In 15 games this season, Braves starters have failed to complete six innings in nine out of 15 games. Teheran pitched eight and six innings, respectively, in first two outings but has lasted only 9 1/3 combined in the last two.

It can be taxing enough on a bullpen when starters can't pitch six or seven innings with consistency but the fact the Braves can't keep their relievers either healthy or PED-free has made the situation even worse. Two rookie relievers, Andrew McKirahan and Arodys Vizcaino, have been suspended 80 games for following positive drug tests. Among other injuries/absentees among relievers who were either on the roster or might have been: Shae Simmons (Tommy John surgery), Josh Outman (shoulder), Brady Feigl (Tommy John) and James Russell (signed as a free agent but couldn't make the team in spring training.

Also Craig Kimbrel. He's gone, too. You can try to rationalize that trade by projecting the Braves weren't going to have enough games worth saving anyway. But his exit meant moving Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson up a slot, leaving a black hole in the middle innings.

Which brings us back to starters not going six innings.

Braves starters have combined for only 78 innings in 15 games, an average of 5.2 and scraping the bottom in the majors. Compare that to last year's average of 6.26.

Their composite starters' ERA is now 4.27. Last year: 3.4 innings.

I'll have more on this topic and post-game, post-sweep comments from the Braves on MyAJC.com.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the full column.


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.