With Teheran on mound, Braves especially glad to be home

Julio Teheran has been one of the National League's best pitchers in home games this season, and one of the NL's worst on the road. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)
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Julio Teheran has been one of the National League's best pitchers in home games this season, and one of the NL's worst on the road. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

 

And now we revisit the Amazing Julio Teheran Home vs. Road Disparity, which is one start away from reaching the midseason mark in full effect. Entering tonight’s home-series opener against the Phillies, the Braves two-time Opening Day starter is 4-0 with a 2.35 ERA and .173 opponents’ average and .256 opponents’ slugging percentage in seven starts at Turner Field, where he’s pitched like the ace that he’s supposed to be.

Even better, actually. He’s pitched like one of the best in baseball at home.

Julio Teheran has been one of the National League's best pitchers in home games this season, and one of the NL's worst on the road. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

Julio Teheran has been one of the National League’s best pitchers in home games this season, and one of the NL’s worst on the road. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

Meanwhile on the road, Teheran is a stunning, inexplicably bad 1-4 with a 7.40 ERA and .361 opponents’ average and .609 opponents’ slugging percentage.

Teheran has allowed 73 hits, 11 home runs and 21 walks in 48 2/3 innings on the road, compared to just 27 hits, three homers and 12 walks in 46 innings at home. If someone can explain that staggering disparity to you with anything other than “small sample size”, then please let me know. I’d like to hear it, too.

He is 1-3 with a 6.14 ERA in his past seven starts. Yet within that period, he’s 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three home starts, with only one homer in 21 1/3 innings. Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to believe it’s the same pitcher making all these starts, that there isn’t a Teheran evil twin making the road trips.

Teheran has made three starts since the middle of June. He was 0-2 with a bloated 8.76 ERA and .400 opponents’ average in two road starts in that period, allowing 22 hits and 12 earned runs in 12 1/3 innings, including six runs apiece at Boston on June 16 and at Pittsburgh last Saturday. Six runs allowed in each game, along with 13 hits and Boston and nine hits at Pittsburgh.

Sandwiched between those two terrible road starts, he faced the Mets at home on June 21. And what did he do? Teheran pitched seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball, that’s what he did.

Tonight he faces the last-place Phillies and lefty Adam Morgan, who’ll make his second major league start after going 0-6 with a 4.74 ERA in 13 starts at Triple-A.

I’m telling you, this has gone beyond small sample size with Teheran. This has gotten a bit crazy. You just don’t see pitchers, particularly pitchers who made the All-Star team the previous season, have these kind of polar-opposite numbers over the course of three months.

Teheran is due for a big-time correction. He and the Braves, of course, can only hope that it’s a correction toward pitching on the road more in line with how he’s pitched on the road. Because right now, his stellar starts at home are what’s preventing his disappointing season from being far more alarming. By that I mean, the fact that he’s pitching so well at home should — finally it seems as though it has — silence the relentless early season speculation that he was hurt.

“Is he hurt?” “He’s got to be hiding an injury?” “When’s he having TJ surgery?” “Teheran’s knee is hurt.” “He’s hurt, he just isn’t saying anything.”

Those were the questions and statements, along with about 500 other variations along the same lines, that I got on my Twitter feed and in my blog, and even in some emails, after each of Teheran’s bad starts in the first couple of months of the season. Thankfully, I think even the most stubborn folks, who wouldn’t accept that he might just be pitching poorly despite his insistence that he was perfectly healthy, are finally starting to realize that you don’t pitch to a 2.35 ERA and .173 opponents’ average in seven home starts if you’re injured.

No, he’s just having one of the oddest seasons we’ve ever seen, folks. Sometimes, this stuff just can’t be explained.

If Teheran himself can’t explain it, then it’s unlikely that anybody else can. And so far, he’s offered no reasonable explanation whatsoever for why he’s pitched as well as he has, although in his most recent starts he has begun to mention how the home crowd gives him energy, that  kind of thing.

But honestly, that’s just been his answer recently, and it sounds more like he’s reaching for answers than anything else. Earlier in the season, during the first couple of months, he never said that, and usually just replied with something along the lines of, I don’t know what’s going on, I try to prepare the same way on the road as I do at home, go about my business the same way,” etc.

Because, with all due respect, it’s not as if the Turner Field crowds have been particularly large or loud this season. And even in places with the biggest attendance and/or most supportive crowds – places like San Francisco, L.A., Boston, St. Louis – no pitcher of note has a home-road disparity like the one that Teheran has produced in this first half-season.

Of course, he’s still one start from the halfway point in the season. Still has about 17-18 starts to go. Plenty of time for a correction.

Just don’t let it start tonight, for the Braves’ sake. Not with the opener of a home series against the dreadful Phillies.

After winning the past two nights against the Nationals, including a dramatic walk-off win Thursday against ace Max Scherzer, the Braves have pulled back within five games of the first-place Nats, and Atlanta has a golden opportunity to make up more ground before the All-Star break, seeing as they have 10 games left, all against last place teams. That’s right. Three last place teams, lined up in a row.

Three games at home against the Phillies (27-54), who have lost four in a row and  are 17 games out of first place in the NL East. Then three games at Milwaukee (33-48), which has  won five in a row and is still 19 ½ games back in the NL Central, and 11 games under .500 at home. And in their last series before the All-Star break, the Braves play four games at Colorado (34-45), which hasn’t even been a good team this season at Coors Field (17-22).

The Nationals, meanwhile, have a markedly tougher schedule the rest of the season, beginning with their last week and a half before the All-Star break: Three games against the Giants (42-38), three at Cincinnati (36-41), and three at AL East co-leader Baltimore (42-37).

Despite everything, including the May struggles of the bullpen, the recent scoring drought in the absence of Freddie Freeman, and the nine-game winning streak the Nationals had against the Braves before the past two nights, the Braves are still just five games out of first place in a lackluster division.

That’s just fact. As much as I know there are some out there who, for whatever reason, really wish the Braves would pack it in and wave the white flag on this season, rather than continue to scrap and not quit and try to somehow reach their goal of making the postseason, the team has no intentions of doing that. Quite the opposite, actually. Their morale has never been down, unlike so many who seem to think it should be or has to have been. They still believe.

If  Teheran could start pitching on the road the way he’s pitching at home, that would sure help their cause. But at the least, the Braves need him to keep pitching like he has at home.

• Let’s wrap this up with an appropriate tune from Joe South, here done live featuring great Johnny Cash, and June, and … well, you gotta see it. There’s even a line about the Georgia sunset.

“DON’T IT MAKE YOU WANNA GO HOME”

Joe South

Joe South

Don’t it make you want to go home?
Don’t it make you want to go home?
All God’s children get weary when they roam
Don’t it make you want to go home?
Don’t it make you want to go home?

Oh, the whippoorwill roosts on the telephone pole
And the Georgia sun goes down
Well, it’s been a long, long time
But I’m glad to say that I am
Goin’ back to my home town

Goin’ down to the Greyhound station
Gonna buy me a one-way fare
And if the good Lord’s willin’ and the creeks don’t rise
By tomorrow I’m gonna be there

Don’t it make you want to go home?
Don’t it make you want to go home?
All God’s children get weary when they roam
Don’t it make you want to go home?
Don’t it make you want to go home?

But there’s a six-lane highway down by the creek
Where I went skinny-dippin’ as a child
And a drive-in show where the meadows used to grow
And the strawberries used to grow wild

There’s a drag strip down by the riverside
Where my grandma’s cow used to graze
Now the grass don’t grow and the river don’t flow
Like it did in my childhood days

Don’t it make you wanna go home?
Don’t it make you wanna go home?
All God’s children get weary when they roam
Don’t it make you wanna, wanna go home?

 


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