The Braves won Sunday in Cincinnati, continuing to do what they've done most of the season: keep everybody guessing. Ender Inciarte, who went 0-for-6 Saturday, went 5-for-5 with five RBI and the Braves won a series in Cincinnati for the first time since 2009, defeating the Reds 13-8.
So a road trip that began 2-5 finished with consecutive victories. The Braves will now come home and play 18 of their next 21 games coming at SunTrust Park, beginning with four against the cellar-dwelling Philadelphia Phillies (18-35).
That's the positive news from Sunday. The negative was Julio Teheran.
He entered the season as their obvious No. 1 starter. He was coming off his second All-Star season in three years and was expected to be the one successful constant in the starting rotation. But he has struggled most of this season and that continued against Cincinnati. He was given a 9-2 lead in the third but allowed five runs over the fourth and fifth and left the game after allowing seven runs and 11 hits in five innings.
Teheran's earned run average ballooned to 5.40. His career ERA entering the season was 3.39, including 3.20 last year. But he has allowed six or more runs in four of his last nine games, during which his ERA is 7.23.
This is not the work of a staff ace. So two questions: 1) What's going on with Teheran? 2) Is it time to seriously consider trading him?
As for the first question: Teheran has talent but the Braves have often been concerned about his mental toughness. That's why former pitching coach Roger McDowell, a tough coach who excelled at game preparation, was so good for him. Teheran has slipped this season with McDowell gone. Whether you believe those two things are connected probably depends on whether you agreed with general manager John Coppolella's decision to fire McDowell (many in the organization did not).
As for the second question: Maybe. I've always opposed the Braves' trading Teheran in the past, whenever his name has been mentioned in rumors (which is often). His contract wouldn't be an obstacle in a deal: He's signed through 2019 with a club option in 2020 and his salaries are manageable ($6.3 million this season, then $8 million, $11 million and $12 million in the years that follow).
The problem is that while Teheran retains value, his stock is obviously low now. And what if he flourishes elsewhere. Do the Braves give up on a pitcher who's only 26 years old and as recently as 2014 posted an ERA of 2.89?
I still lean toward keeping Teheran, especially with the Braves being so thin in starting pitching at the major league level. But don't be surprised if trade rumors with him heat up.
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