This was definitely one pitching matchup you probably didn’t feel that comfortable with. This probably isn’t a surprise, but the Nats are the division opponent that Julio Teheran has struggled the most against. But not tonight. I would have loved to see him get through 6, but after 3 singles in the 6th brought him the Nats’ only run off of him, his night was over.
It’s still hard to know who Julio is. One thing that has always been appreciated by Julio is that he almost never misses a start, which has had a lot of value to a team with so many young pitchers and injury concerns. There was disappointment from fans when he continued his Opening Day start streak this year, but the reality is that he was the one who was able to take the ball, and the preferred choice, Mike Foltynewicz, was not.
He’s not that much different than last year if you look at his peripherals. Through a pretty good sample size of 21 starts, his K/9 and BB/9 are within a tenth of a point of each other. His H/9 has actually gone up almost a hit per inning. But he’s kept the ball in the ballpark quite a bit better (1.0/9, down from 1.3/9 last year), and that’s helped a little. But since the beginning of last year, he’s pitched 288 innings with a 3.81 ERA and a 8.3 K/9. Most teams would be happy to pay a durable guy $11.1M this year, as the Braves are doing. He’s also had consistent production with both catchers this year, whereas he’s struggled with different catchers of yesteryear. For instance, he had an ERA over 5 in 116 IP with AJ Pierzynski, though that may have been reflective of the pitcher he was at that point. But if he can continue this through the end of the season, it makes his $12M team option easier to pick up, even if the Braves look to trade him.
But in some ways, the story of the game was another blown save by Luke Jackson. He’s a strike out machine — 66 in 48 innings — but he’s so dependent on his slider that if he doesn’t get ahead early in the count, hitters are laying off of it as it gets into better hitters counts. As a result, Luke grooves a fastball, and Victor Robles crushes it. I would love to add a closer so that we can use Jackson elsewhere in the game, and perhaps even situationally. Add a closer, add another lefty, and you can have some dangerous pieces to deploy throughout the latter end of games.
And hey, we won because we have a deep roster who can overcome the shortcomings of an average closer. Good teams do that.