Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Teheran's buzzard's luck, Braves' late-inning and lefty woes

If you’re a Braves fan and went into Tuesday night’s game not particularly like the pitching matchup of Julio Teheran vs. Reds left-hander Brandon Finnegan, despite the fact that Teheran’s ERA (2.85 before Tuesday) was nearly a run lower than Finnegan’s 3.77, it’s probably because you knew.

You knew that the Braves, who rarely score many runs, period, almost never do when Teheran or Matt Wisler is pitching. They both rank among the bottom four in the majors in run support, and Tuesday’s 3-1 loss marked the 16th time in Teheran’s 20 starts since Sept. 1 that the Braves have scored two or fewer runs while he’s been in the game. To repeat, 16 out of 20 games, two or fewer runs while he’s been in.

Teheran has a 2.53 ERA and .201 opponents’ average in that 20-start stretch, yet just a 4-8 record. And it gets worse: He has a 2.13 ERA and .182 opponents’ average in his past 11 starts, lasting seven or more innings in seven of them, yet Teheran has just a 2-5 record in that span.

And the Braves lost eight of those 11 games.

So you knew that.

Or, maybe you were at least vaguely aware of the degree to which the Braves have struggled this season against lefties. Even if you probably didn’t realize it was quite this bad: Lefty starters, after the win by Finnegan, are now 12-4 with a 2.02 ERA in 25 starts against the Braves this season.

And this: Against all lefties, starters and relievers, the Braves are batting a National League-worst .220 (172-for-781) with eight homers, 52 walks, a league-high 198 strikeouts, a league-worst .278 OBP and a league-worst .297 slugging percentage. So there’s that.

(In case you’re wondering, in 1,380 at-bats vs. righties the Brave have hit .236/..307/.333 with 19 homers, 298 strikeouts, a .307 OBP and a .333 slugging percentage.)

Now, you probably saw Braves fight back from early deficits in Monday’s series opener to tie the game on Adonis Garcia’s eighth-inning homer. But you might also have known that kind of thing has rarely happened this season, and you also saw the Braves lose that game in the ninth inning, the kind of thing that’s happened quite a bit more, albeit not with Arodys Vizcaino the one typically blowing such a game.

But anyway, you have seen the Braves play more than a third of a season, so you knew. You knew when they still trailed 3-1 Tuesday night entering the late innings, after going 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position during the early innings, that the prospects of pulling out a late-innings win weren’t great.

But did you realize it was this bad: After loading the bases with none out and failing to score in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 3-1 win, the Braves in close-and-late situations are batting .193 (71-for-367) with three homers, 38 walks, .278 OBP and .248 slugging percentage.

That’s the NL’s second-worst batting average and worst slugging percentage in those situations.

Meanwhile, their pitchers in those same situations have allowed a .245 average (89-for-263) with 12 homers, 57 walks, .352 OBP and .402 slugging percentage, at or near the bottom of the league in each of those stats.

By the way, the Braves have failed to pull out a win in the late innings of consecutive close games this series against a Reds bullpen that’s statistically the worst in the majors. By far. Cincinnati’s 6.30 bullpen ERA is more than a run higher than the next-worst in the majors (Rangers, 5.03) and nearly 1 ½ runs worse than the next-highest in the NL – the Braves’ 4.65.

Also, despite last night’s results, Reds pitchers have allowed, by far, the highest average (.274), OBP (.376) and slugging percentage (.527) among NL teams in close-and-late situations. In fact, that slugging percentage allowed by the Reds is more than 100 points higher than the next-worst among NL pitching staffs.

So, you probably weren’t overly surprised by this point.

Teheran starting. A left-handed counterpart. A close game in the late innings. Bad combination for Braves.

By the way, they are now 3-41 when tied or trailing after six innings, 1-44 when tied or trailing after eight.

Tonight’s matchup: The Braves will start a resurgent Bud Norris (2-7, 4.75 ERA) against Reds righty Anthony DeSclafani (0-0, 1.50).

This will be just the second start of the season for DeSclafani, who was to be the Reds’ opening-day starter before straining an oblique in spring training. After a relapse delayed his return from the DL, he limited the Athletics to one run on eights and three walks with two strikeouts in six innings Friday for no decision in a Reds win.

He went 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in two starts against the Braves last season. Ender Inciarte is 2-for-5 with a homer against DeSclafani, Jace Peterson is 2-for-4, Nick Markakis is 2-for-7 and Freddie Freeman is 1-for-4.

Norris started the season in the Braves’ rotation and lost his spot after going 1-4 with an 8.74 ERA in his first five starts.

Many of us thought he’d eventually be released, but it’s a good thing the Braves didn’t drop him: He’s 1-3 with a 1.78 ERA in 14 games since being dropped from the rotation, including 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts since being thrust back into a starting role after Mike Foltynewicz went on the DL with bone spurs in his elbow.

Norris has allowed just seven hits, two runs and four walks in 12 innings over his past two starts, and those were against the Dodgers in L.A. and the Cubs at Turner Field.

He’s 1-3 with a 4.40 ERA in eight career starts against the Reds. Joey Votto is 5-for-14 with a homer against him, Brandon Phillips is 5-for-19 with a homer, and Jay Bruce is 4-for-18 with a homer and six strikeouts.

• Let's close with this one from Todd Snider, who's playing Thursday through Saturday nights at the new City Winery in Atlanta.

"PLAY A TRAIN SONG" by Todd Snider

A smoke, a long black cadillac,

the engine's winding down.

He'd park it up on the sidewalk

like he owned the whole damn town.

I'd hear him talkin' to some chick

through a thick ghost of smoke,

through a thicker haze of Southern Comfort and coke,

say, girl you're hotter than a hinge

hangin' off the gates of hell.

Don't be afraid to turn to me,

babe, if he don't treat you well,

and by he he meant me,

so I laughed and I shook his hand.

He'd laugh a little bit louder as he'd

yell up at the band:

Play a train song,

pour me one more round,

make 'em leave my boots on when they lay me into the ground.

I am a runaway locomotive,

outta my one track mind,

and I'm lookin' for any kinda trouble that I can find

I got this old black leather jacket

I got this pack of Marlboro Reds

I got this stash here in my pocket

I got these thoughts in my own head

the right to run until I gotta walk

or until I got to crawl

this moment that I'm in right now and nothing else at all

Play a train song,

pour me one more round,

make 'em leave my boots on when they lay me into the ground.

I am a runaway locomotive,

outta my one track mind.

In the television blizzard lights

I looked around this place.

I found a cold beer on the sofa,

a little smile across his face,

and though I tried with all of my sadness,

somehow I could not just weep

for a man who looked to me like he died laughin' in his sleep,

sayin' a train song,

drinkin' one last round.

We made 'em leave his boots on on the day they layed him down.

He was a runaway locomotive

out of his one track mind.

Play a train song

Play a train song

Play a train song

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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.