Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 6/17/13
ATLANTA Here are three things we learned from the Braves' 3-0 win over the Giants, clinching Atlanta's series victory over the defending champs: 1. Julio Teheran has been lights-out since getting a wake-up call on the coldest day of the season Remember that Braves-Rockies series in late April, when Colorado broke the franchise record for coldest game at Coors Field ... twice in the same day? Well, since April 23, spanning 10 starts and 68 innings, Teheran has tallied five wins, a 2.38 ERA and otherworldly K-BB rate of 546. And that includes last Monday's clunker against the Padres (five runs allowed) ... and Sunday's scoreless shakedown of the Giants on national TV. "I felt good my about four-seam fastball, and I wasn't missing on my (other) pitches," said Teheran, who scattered seven hits over six innings, while striking out eight Giants and walking just one. His skipper was particularly proud of how Teheran escaped a pair of bases-loaded scenarios in the fourth and sixth innings. "It was good to see him (wiggle) out of jams," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "He did a nice job." The above numbers paint a clear picture of Teheran's effectiveness over the last two months. Comparatively speaking, though, Teheran's Sunday outing may have been as stellar as the near no-hitter against the Pirates (June 5). Of his 94 pitches against San Francisco, 65 were strikes. Of the six innings, he faced four or less batters four times. And of the seven hits allowed, none were of the extra-base variety. For the soft-spoken and humble Teheran, it was all in a day's work, even if Sunday's victory had a little added significance. "It's very exciting for me ... the (Giants) are the champs." 2. From a degree-of-difficulty standpoint, Justin Upton's two game-saving catches with the bases loaded could not have been more disparate Atlanta's 2-0 lead in the fourth inning was tenuous, at best, after San Francisco had stacked the bases off two singles (Buster Posey, Brandon Belt) and one Andres Torres walk. And at the plate, Giants third baseman Joaquin Arias (regular fill-in for the injured Pablo Sandoval) was hitting .350 for June. "Here's a guy (Teheran), 12 starts ago, it might have blown up on him," recalled Gonzalez, leading up to the game-changing sequence. On Teheran's delivery, Arias smacked a ball that was seemingly poised to fall in front of Upton. If so, Posey and Belt would have scored easily. But the left fielder immediately found his bearings and charged forward. "It had a little arc to it, so it was a pretty safe ball to go after," Upton explained in the postgame. "It's a situation where there's bases loaded and two out ... and you've got to get the out." To Gonzalez and Teheran, it was the defensive gem of the night. And maybe even the Braves' best catch of the season. Two innings later, with essentially the same pressure circumstances at play two out, bases loaded, Braves up by two Giants second baseman Nick Noonan skied a fly ball to Upton, who made the clean catch and essentially halted San Francisco's last genuine rally of the evening. (The Braves would tack on a third run in the sixth, thanks to a Ramiro Pena single and subsequent two-base error and Jordan Schafer's textbook safety squeeze, a "pop" grounder that scored Pena, without incident.) 3. Time's already running out on the Nationals and Phillies' hopes for an NL East title It's fine that coaches and players accept these challenges day by day, game by game, series by series. They're paid (very well) to be pragmatic about the future. But as someone who's perpetually moving forward, I find it mathematically implausible that Atlanta will miss out on its 15th division title since 1991. Here's why: Hypothetically speaking, let's pretend the Braves (41-28) conservatively finish the remaining 93 games at 51-42, putting them at 92 victories for the season. The Nationals (34-34) would have to go 58-36 from this point forward ... just for the right to force a one-game playoff for the division crown. The Phillies (33-37), citing the same rationale, would have to finish a staggering 59-33 to reach the magical threshold of 92-70. In a season with Roy Halladay on the shelf (shoulder surgery), Delmon Young logging 35 starts in the outfield (always an adventure), Cole Hamels staring at a 2-9 mark and 4.45 ERA ... and Cliff Lee getting just 3.6 runs per game from the Philly offense. (Amazingly, Lee has won his last six decisions.) Regarding the Braves' conservative hypothetical of 51-42 from this point forward, here are four reasons why they're locks to eclipse that estimate: The starting rotation (Tim Hudson, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Paul Maholm, Teheran) hasn't missed a single turn all season. How many teams can say that? In the last 30 days, Atlanta boasts eight players with on-base percentages north of .300. Evan Gattis, the poster child for the Braves' seemingly endless supply of productive and versatile bench assets, has 14 homers, 37 RBI and a .322 OBP ... and yet, he's logged only six June starts. (Note: In the postgame, Gonzalez said Gattis would get back-to-back starts sometime this week.) And in case you haven't read Three Cuts in the last two weeks ... The Braves don't have a single road trip further west than Kansas City or longer than seven games from this point forward. By comparison, the Phillies have two roadies of nine and 10 games in the next six weeks, followed up immediately with a likely now-or-never homestand against San Francisco and Atlanta. The Nationals have two 10-game roadies left on the docket (one in August, one in September); and for the final week, Washington encounters a daunting two-city voyage to St. Louis and Arizona.
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