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MIL@ATL: Teheran fans eight, goes the distance in win

ATLANTA -- As Julio Teheran has progressed through the early stages of his still blossoming career, he has proven that along with a strong arsenal of pitches, he possesses the mental resolve that allows him to often overcome adversity in an authoritative manner.

Instead of being burdened by the miserable outing he had last week in San Francisco, Teheran returned to the mound on Tuesday night and proved why his Braves teammates widely consider him to be the ace of their rock-solid rotation.

Teheran pitched around some early trouble, and did not flinch when he encountered the ninth-inning trouble that he overcame while notching his second career shutout in a 5-0 win over the Brewers that was aided by Atlanta's suddenly vibrant offense.

"The good ones and the horses are able to go out there, and they smell the blood in the water," Braves catcher Gerald Laird said. "He went out there, made pitches and I'm glad he got it done."

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had plenty of relievers available to protect a five-run lead that was created with some help from Justin Upton, who homered for a third straight day to highlight his three-RBI performance. But instead of going to the 'pen, the Braves' skipper was more intrigued by the potential long-term value of sending his 23-year-old ace back to the mound to finish what he started.

With his pitch count at 109, Teheran allowed Jean Segura to begin the ninth with a single. Elian Herrera added a one-out single, but instead of buckling, the Braves' right-hander simply ended his latest gem with consecutive strikeouts of Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez.

"That's something that motivates me, every time my manager shows confidence in me like that," said Teheran, who allowed six hits and recorded eight strikeouts as he commanded this 128-pitch outing in impressive fashion.

"We were going to give him an opportunity," Gonzalez said. "He deserved that and earned that. There was a point in the game where we weren't going to let him hurt himself or risk an injury. But [128] pitches, that was right in the wheelhouse of what we were going to give him. That was his last hitter obviously."

Six days after feeling helpless while he was unable to find a grip of the baseball during 3 1/3 frustration-filled innings against the Giants, Teheran completed this outing with a sense of peace that he admits he did not necessarily have when he notched his first career shutout in Philadelphia on April 16.

"I feel a little different from the last time," Teheran said. "The [first one] I was a little bit excited about the ninth inning. This time, I just tried to concentrate and I was a little bit calmer."

Some of Teheran's comfort came via the production provided by Justin Upton, who capped a three-run third inning with a two-run single, and began the fifth inning with an opposite-field home run that somehow stayed on a straight line long enough to stay inside the right-field foul pole.

Since enduring an 18-game stretch in which they scored less than three runs 11 times, the Braves have now tallied at least five runs in each of their past three games. Upton has homered in each of these past three victories. Though he has not been as consistent as he was when he hit .326 with a 1.041 OPS during this season's first month, Upton still managed to provide timely contributions. He helped snap a seven-game losing streak with a homer against the Cardinals on May 6, and the home runs he's hit the past three days have distanced the Braves from the frustration that had built as they had lost 12 of their previous 17 games.

"We've seen it in April and a little bit of May," Gonzalez said. "We all expect for him to carry those April numbers all the way through the course of the year and it doesn't happen. But he's heating up again. Good for us."

Starting pitching has served as the one constant for the Braves, who have seen Teheran post a 1.92 ERA -- the National League's fourth-best mark -- through his first 10 starts. The 23-year-old hurler has allowed fewer than two runs in five of his past seven outings.

Determined not to allow last week's outing in San Francisco have a carryover effect, Teheran navigated his way through Milwaukee's lineup with limited trouble. He pitched around a pair of walks in the second inning, and the doubles Jonathan Lucroy hit in the fourth and eighth innings. As the game progressed, he gained a better feel for his patented slider.

"He's proven himself to be the ace of the team," Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. "He had a bad outing a couple days ago. That's the best way you can bounce back there, a shutout."

Before having to exit in the fourth inning with a sprained left ankle, Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo matched Teheran through the first two innings. But he started to encounter trouble after Simmons opened the bottom of the third inning with a home run into the left-field seats.

The Braves' three-run third was filled with further indications that added patience has helped them produce better plate appearances on a more consistent basis over the past few days. Laird followed Simmons' homer with an opposite-field single, and Teheran produced a sacrifice bunt on a high fastball. Ramiro Pena and Freddie Freeman later drew consecutive two-out walks to set the stage for Upton to send his two-run single through the infield's left side.

But as encouraging as the offensive production might have been, this game belonged to the man who threw the first and final pitch.

"It's good, especially for a young guy like him," Laird said. "He's still young, and sometimes that's the hardest thing to learn, to close a game out. He gave up that single to begin the ninth and I was just chirping at him, 'Let's get this done.'" Comments