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David O'BrienDavid O'Brien

Facing Kershaw, Braves need Teheran at his best

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 LOS ANGELES – Julio Teheran faces Clayton Kershaw tonight in a matchup of aces in the Braves-Dodgers series finale. Needless to say the Braves need Teheran to pitch like the pitcher he’s been most games this season, not the pitcher he’s been in most games on the West Coast, including starts at San Francisco this season and Dodger Stadium in the playoffs last year.

First, let’s focus on Kershaw, who has won two of the past three NL Cy Young awards and is the hottest pitcher in baseball right now. The left-hander is – are you ready for this? — 9-0 with a 0.94 ERA and .151 opponents’ average and four complete games in his past 10 starts, with 95 strikeouts and eight walks in 77 innings. He has allowed just 40 hits in those 10 starts, including a 15-strikeout no-hitter against Colorado on June 18.

He threw a three-hit shutout at San Francisco on Saturday in 113 pitches, the fifth time that Kershaw allowed three  or fewer hits in his past 10 starts and the ninth time he pitched seven or more innings in that stretch.

We’re watching a future Hall of Famer, folks. And for the past couple of months he’s been at absolute peak form. If looking for a positive from Braves’ perspective, well, he’s due to have a mediocre or bad start, right?

It’d probably be more likely to come on the road: Kershaw is 5-0 with a 0.90 ERA and .143 opponents’ average and two complete games in his past five home starts, and he’s 5-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven home starts for the season, with a staggering ratio of 73 strikeouts with five walks in 54 innings.

Opponents are hitting just .189 with a .220 OBP and .288 slugging percentage against the big lefty, including .161/.189/.184 in 87 at-bats by left-handed hitters and .196/.228/.316 in 316 at-bats by righty hitters.

Clayton Kershaw was 9-0 with a 0.94 ERA and .151 opponents’ average and four complete games in his past 10 starts before facing the Braves on Thursday.

Clayton Kershaw was 9-0 with a 0.94 ERA and .151 opponents’ average and four complete games in his past 10 starts before facing the Braves on Thursday. (AP photo)

Hitters are 8-for-64 (.125) against him with runners in scoring position, with five walks and 28 strikeouts.

Against the Braves,  Kershaw has  no decisions in four regular-season starts, despite a 2.45 ERA and .189 opponents’ average. All of those starts were before 2012.

He went 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA and .130 opponents’ average in two starts against the Braves in the 2013 division series, allowing six hits and three runs (one earned run) with four walks and 18 strikeouts in 13 innings. Kershaw had 12 strikeouts in seven innings of a Game 1 win in that series, then got no decision when he pitched six innings on short rest in Game 4, allowing three hits and two unearned runs.

Against Kershaw, Justin Upton is 3-for-29 (.103) with two walks and nine strikeouts in regular-season games, Chris Johnson is 1-for-12 – hence Phil Gosselin in the lineup tonight — Ryan Doumit is 3-for-6, and Jason Heyward is 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Heyward is out of the  lineup for a third consecutive day, as expected, recovering from back soreness. Fredi Gonzalez said he hope to start him two or all three games this weekend at San Diego.

No other Brave has more than three official at-bats against Kershaw, and Freddie Freeman (1-for-2) is the only current Brave with a homer against him.

As for Teheran, he’s 4-1 with a 3.62 ERA and .279 opponents’ average in his past six starts,  and 2-3 with a 5.87 ERA and .328 opponents’ average in his past five road starts. For the season, he’s 6-5 with a 4.09 ERA and .265 opponents’ average in 11 road starts, compared to 4-1 with a 1.48 ERA and .191 opponents’ average in 11 home starts.

Teheran said he doesn’t know why he has struggled so much in games on the West Coast, but figures it’s probably drier air that makes it hard for him to grip the ball out here. He gave up seven hits and five runs (four earned) with a career-high five walks in 3 1/3 innings of a May 14 loss at San Francisco, and allowed 10 hits and seven runs in a June 11 loss at Colorado (not West Coast, but definitely dry air).

Here’s the rundown: He’s 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in one start at San Diego, 1-1 with a 6.10 ERA in two starts at San Francisco, and Teheran allowed eight hits and six runs in 2 2/3 innings at Dodger Stadium in a Game 3 loss in the division series, his only career start against the Dodgers.

Just three Dodgers have faced, and no one on the active roster has more than three official at-bats against him.

• Etc.

The Braves are 9-12 with a 3.78 ERA and .251 batting average in their past 21 games, and 0-6 in games decided by one run during that stretch. The Braves scored two or fewer runs in eight of those 21 games including four times in the past seven games…

Braves center fielder B. J. Upton is 1-for-9 with one walk and seven strikeouts in the first two games of the series, including four consecutive strikeouts Wednesday. He had an infield single in his first plate appearance of the series opener and struck out in seven of his next eight plate appearances before drawing a 10th-inning walk Wednesday. Upton has struck out 70 times in 202 at-bats over his past 48 games, batting .213 with a .271 OBP and three homers in that period….

Meanwhile, Justin Upton’s mammoth ninth-inning, game-tying homer Wednesday was his team-high 19th of the season and his fourth in close-and-late situations, matching Evan Gattis for the team lead in the latter category.

•  Ok, gotta keep it short today because I spent most of the day on trade-deadline watch. Let’s close with one from the Hook, the late, legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker, here with an assist from Carlos Santana. Click here to see/hear it.

“THE HEALER” by John Lee Hooker (with Carlos Santana)

John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker

Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm
Hmm, oh Lord, Lord
Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm
Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm

Healed me to heal you early one morning
It can heal you the blues can heal you, yeah, yeah
It healed me, healed me, it healed me
I was down, I was down, it healed me

Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord
Yes it did, yes it did, look now
A woman left me, the blues healed me
My woman left me, left me, early one morning
Blues healed me, it healed me, healed me, yeah, yeah

Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord
Hmm, have mercy
The blues, the blues is a healer
Blues, blues, is a healing healer

It healed, healed, healed
Heal, heal, heal, heal
All over the world, all over the world
It’s a healer

One night, I was laying down
Feeling so bad, so low, so low
My woman had left me
Blues came along and healed me

Heal, heal, heal, heal
Carlos, it healed me, Carlos
Carlos, it healed me
The blues, it healed, it healed, healer

Hey, hey, healed me, healed me, healer
Hey, blues a healer, the blues a healer
All over the world, all over the world, hmm

Lord, Lord, Lord, blues a healer
All over the world, all over the world
Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord
Healed me, healed, healed, healed
It healed me, it healed me, to heal me
Can heal you, can heal you, heal you, if you let it

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