Floundering Braves need Teheran to step up tonight

 

PHILADELPHIA – There isn’t much left to salvage from this crumbling Braves season, but avoiding 100 losses and last place in the National League East are two tangible goals. And the Braves need a win in tonight’s series final at Philly to at least slow the momentum toward both of those ignominious outcomes.

And even though Julio Teheran is pitching tonight, and he was terrible on the road for much of the season, he’s gotten that turned around recently and, given his opposition tonight, David Buchanan, there’s no reason the Braves can’t get out of Philly with a series win, which would be their first road-series win in more than two months, since taking the first two in a three-game series July 6-8 at Milwaukee.

With 20 losses in their past 22 games, the Braves aren't going to be favored in many games the rest of the way. But Wednesday's matchup, Julio Teheran vs. the Phillies' David Buchanan, is a favorable one for Atlanta. (AP photo)

With 20 losses in their past 22 games, the Braves aren’t going to be favored in many games the rest of the way. But Wednesday’s matchup, Julio Teheran vs. the Phillies’ David Buchanan, is a favorable one for Atlanta. (AP photo)

Yes, the same series where the bottom dropped out with a blown two-run lead in Game 3 on Carlos Gomez’s three-run homer in the eighth off Luis Avilan.

The last-place Phillies (54-85) shut out the Braves last night, 5-0, spoiling a strong major league debut by pitcher Ryan Weber, who looks younger than some batboys but appeared calm and unfazed on the mound (six innings, four hits, two runs). Now the Phillies are within a game of the Braves (55-84) in the NL East standings.

This means the Braves need to win tonight to avoid falling into a last-place tie, which would be the first time they were in last place after the All-Star break – alone in last or tied for last – since finishing 65-97 in the NL West in 1990.

If the Braves lose tonight in the 140th game of the season, they’d need to go 8-14 the rest of the way to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1988, when they went 54-106 and finished 39 ½ games back in the NL West.  And if 8-14 seems doable, well, we’ll remind you that these Braves are 2-20 with a 7.22 ERA and 59 runs scored in their past 22 games, and 13-42 since their 42-42 start.

On the road, they are 3-27 with a 6.14 ERA and 78 runs in 30 games going back to that fateful series finale in Milwaukee. That’s three and twenty-seven.

By the way, the Phillies (65-96) had the second-worst record in the NL in that 1988 season and finished 35 ½ games behind the 100-win National League East champion New York Mets. So I guess things have just about come full circle.

Baseball had 26 teams back in 1988, and the Phillies (.404) and Braves (.338) finished 24th and 25th in winning percentage, ahead of only the Orioles (.335).

Baseball has 30 teams now, and the Braves (.396) and Phillies (.388) are 29th and 30th in winning percentage, slightly worse than the Rockies (57-81, .413), Reds (57-80, .416) and Marlins (58-81)

One of those teams appears headed toward securing the No. 1 pick in next June’s draft. But while plenty of fans are pulling for the Braves to finish with the worst record in order to get that pick, I can assure you that no one in the front office and certainly no one on the team is thinking that way. They’ve got pride, and finishing with 100 losses, much less with the worst record in all of baseball, isn’t something anyone on the team wants any part of.

• Tonight’s matchup: Here’s what I was talking about regarding that Julio Teheran vs. David Buchanan matchup tonight, and why the Braves have a good chance to get out of here with a win.

After going 1-5 with a 7.24 ERA and .331 opponents’ average in 11 road starts through the end of July, Teheran is 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA and .243 OA in his past three road starts.

Teheran is 4-1 with a 1.61 ERA and .208 opponents’ average in six starts against the Phillies since the beginning of the 2014 season, including 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two this season.

Few visiting pitchers have fared as well at Citizens Bank Park as Teheran, who is 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in four starts at the hitter-friendly venue. In his only start there this season, he allowed eight hits and two runs with no walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings of an Aug. 2 win, one of only three Braves wins in their past 30 road games.

Among Phillies who’ve faced him the most, Ryan Howard is 4-for-21 with two homers, Cody Asche is 4-for-15 with a homer, Carlos Ruiz is 2-for-13 and Cesar Hernandez is 2-for-11.

Overall, Teheran is 3-1 with a 3.95 ERA  in seven starts since the beginning of August, though he’s allowed seven homers in 23 2/3 innings over his past four starts (including three in one game against the Yankees at Turner Field).

He and the Braves will face Buchanan, who hasn’t pitched in the majors in four weeks after getting absolutely rocked for a 28.59 ERA and .568 opponents’ average in his last two starts. He allowed 21 hits (four homers) and 18 runs in just 5 2/3 innings of that pair of losses, at home against the Dodgers and on the road against the Diamondbacks.

Buchanan gave up 10 hits and seven runs in four innings on Aug. 6 against the Dodgers, then was knocked around for 11 hits and 11 runs in just 1 2/3 innings at Arizona on Aug. 11.

For the season, he’s 2-7 with a 9.00 ERA and .355 OA, with 26 strikeouts and 21 walks in 49 innings, including a .366 average by right-handed batters.

Against the Braves, Buchanan is 1-2 with a 3.91 ERA and .214 opponents’ average in four starts over the past two seasons, including 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two this season. He beat them on July 31, allowing eight hits and three runs in a season-high 7 1/3  innings, his last start before getting pummeled by the Dodgers and D’backs.

Braves who’ve faced him the most: Freddie Freeman, 3-for-12 with a homer; Andrelton Simmons, 1-for-12 with a homer, and A.J. Pierzynksi, 2-for-8. Nick Markakis (1-for-6) is the only other Brave with more than five official at-bats against Buchanan.

 • Etc.

Freddie Freeman is 24-for-103 (.233) in 30 games since returning from the first of his two stints on the DL this season, with four doubles, four homers, 11 RBIs, a .363 OBP and .388 slugging percentage….

Jace Peterson has hit .197 (50-for-254) with a .261 OBP and .283 slugging percentage in his past 66 games, with 15 extra-base hits (three homers), 19 RBIs, 20 walks and 66 strikeouts.

• Dwight Yoakam’s playing in Atlanta at Symphony Hall on Friday night. Here’s one of his many terrific tunes.

“GUITARS, CADILLACS” by Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam

Girl you taught me how to hurt real bad and cry myself to sleep
And showed me how this town can shatter dreams
Another lesson ’bout a naive fool who came to Babylon
And found out that the pie don’t taste so sweet

Now it’s guitars, Cadillacs, hillbilly music
Lonely, lonely streets that I call home
Yeah, my guitars, Cadillacs, hillbilly music
It’s the only thing that keeps me hangin’ on

Ain’t no glamour in this tinseled land of lost and wasted lives
Painful scars are all that’s left of me
Oh, but thank you girl for teachin’ me brand new ways to be cruel
If I can find my mind now I guess I’ll just leave

And it’s guitars, Cadillacs, hillbilly music
Lonely, lonely streets that I call home
Yeah, my guitars, Cadillacs, hillbilly music
It’s the only thing that keeps me hangin’ on

Oh it’s guitars, Cadillacs, hillbilly music
Lonely, lonely streets that I call home
Yeah, my guitars, Cadillacs, hillbilly music
It’s the only thing that keeps me hangin’ on
It’s the only thing that keeps me hangin’ on
It’s the only thing that keeps me hangin’ on


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