Julio Teheran takes the hill on Monday at Turner Field with the chance to provide even further separation between the Braves and the Phillies in the National League East. Without a breakout season from Teheran, Atlanta might not be enjoying such a lead.
The 22-year-old has grown up quickly during his first full season in the Majors, and the Braves could not be happier about his development.
"From Spring Training to where [Teheran] is now, he went from being a No. 5 to feeling out the league to a top-of-the-rotation starter," said catcher Brian McCann. "I'd put him up against anybody."
Cracking a crowded starting rotation during Spring Training was not a guarantee for Teheran. However, the right-hander made it a guarantee by finishing 3-1 with a 1.04 ERA in six Grapefruit League starts.
Although Teheran earned a spot with the Braves, the road was not free of adversity for the rookie.
Teheran began the season on a rough note, compiling a 5.08 ERA in five April starts -- and opponents batted .333 against him over 28 1/3 innings. He looked to be far removed from the accolades that accompanied his rise to the Majors.
But once May began, Teheran began to deliver on his promise. He sports a 2.40 ERA and 13 quality starts in 17 outings since May 9. The post-April run has lowered Teheran's ERA to 2.96, which ranks third among qualified MLB rookie pitchers.
Teheran grabbed headlines for more than his superb season during his most recent outing, when he hit Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper with a fastball in Atlanta's 2-1 win against Washington on Aug. 6.
Harper was under the impression that Teheran plunked him on purpose, but the confrontation ultimately yielded no damage. The benches-clearing altercation did not devolve into fighting, and Teheran escaped the inning unscathed.
"I think after the Harper situation, we really wanted to win this game," said Freddie Freeman. "For Julio to get out of that with a runner on first and second and just one out [in the fifth], that was a huge momentum shift to us -- after [the Nats] got the crowd going a little bit."
After 14 straight wins, the Braves' season-best winning streak ended in a loss to the Marlins on Saturday night. The Braves quickly got back on the winning side of things Sunday, though, beating Miami, 9-4. Philadelphia hopes Atlanta will witness another streak end when Teheran faces Cole Hamels on Monday night.
After getting shut out by Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals on Sunday, the Phillies have lost 11 straight games on the road and had not won away from Citizens Bank Park since July 19.
"The bottom line is, we're not getting it done -- and we're losing a lot of games," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel on Saturday. "We walk a lot of guys, and we fall behind. ... We ... bring the ball over the plate, and when we do, something happens for them. That's basically the bottom line. And we have trouble holding somebody."
The Phillies' woes are partly due to injuries. Starting lineup stalwarts Ryan Howard (left knee inflammation) and Ben Revere (broken right foot) have been on the 15-day disabled list since July 6 and July 14, respectively. They are also without ace Roy Halladay (right shoulder inflammation).
"It's hard," said catcher Carlos Ruiz. "If you think about it, Howard's out -- he brings in a lot of RBIs. Revere was having a really good year -- he goes down, too. It's hard when you feel that you have a team but, at the same time, players go on the DL. It's hard to get anything together."
Phillies: Manuel nearing 1,000th career win
Manuel entered Monday's contest with 999 career victories, 779 of which have come with Philadelphia. Manuel won 220 games as the Indians' manager from 2000-02.
His next win will make him the 59th manager in MLB history to reach 1,000.
"That might mean something more to me down the road somewhere, but I come out here every day I manage, I want to win the game," Manuel said. "What it means to me? I don't really know.
"There's been a lot of people who've had 1,000 wins. It might mean something to me one of these days. Right now, things like that, it's good in some ways. I understand that. It means that my players have been good, my [teams] have been good, things like that."
Braves: Club aims to begin new winning streak
After Miami ended Atlanta's 14-game winning streak on Saturday night, the Braves rallied on Sunday for a 9-4 victory against the Marlins.
Alex Wood, who pitched six scoreless innings in Saturday's loss, was not happy to see the run end. But he recognized that it was special while it lasted.
"It stinks," said Wood. "It was bound to end sometime, you know? What we've done the past three-fourths of a month has been pretty special. We've been playing great ball from every aspect -- hitting, pitching, defense -- and tonight we pitched well and played great defense. ... The bats just weren't there."
"I don't think anybody in here thought that we were going to win out," said third baseman Chris Johnson. "You know what I mean?"
• Braves outfielder Justin Upton left during the fifth inning of Sunday's game with cramping in his left hamstring.
• Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman upped his RBI total to 79 on Sunday, eclipsing the 76 he drove in as a rookie in 2011. His career high is 94, set last year.
• Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley have started 1,036 games together as a double-play combination, which is second-most among active combinations behind Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano of the Yankees (1,041).
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.