Teheran crushed in KC with postseason decisions looming

Starting pitcher Julio Teheran #49 of the Atlanta Braves throws against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium on September 24, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Starting pitcher Julio Teheran #49 of the Atlanta Braves throws against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium on September 24, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Credit: Ed Zurga

Credit: Ed Zurga

If Julio Teheran was pitching for his spot in the Braves’ postseason rotation Tuesday, he might’ve vaulted himself out of the mix.

Teheran was charged six runs in just 2-1/3 innings. His Braves lost 9-6 in Kansas City, a game that carried far more weight as an evaluation tool than a result in the standings.

“I don’t know,” manager Brian Snitker said. “If it’s rhythm - today he couldn’t just get a mix of things going. I don’t know what it is.”

In nine days, the Braves will host Game 1 of the National League Division Series. By that time, they’ll have sorted out their rotation and bullpen (for better or worse). These last five games are the final trials for several players vying for spots. Teheran, despite his veteran status, is among those without clarity on his future.

So wilting against a 100-loss team in what might’ve been his last start of the regular season? That’s not going to help his case for anything.

Teheran labored through a 29-pitch first inning that included a 13-pitch battle with lead-off man Whit Merrifield. The South Carolina product finally doubled and later scored, putting Teheran and the Braves in an immediate hole.

The right-hander allowed a double but finished the inning unscathed. The same could not be said for the third, when the Royals tagged the right-hander for five runs – all earned – in a meltdown that forced Teheran out after retiring one batter.

His rocky third inning: Walk, single, single, hit by pitch, sacrifice fly, double. Snitker pulled Teheran at that point after he’d allowed five runs in the frame. The disaster was capped by Bubba Starling roping a double that he’d score on due to a throwing error from catcher Brian McCann.

“When you play a major league baseball game, you evaluate every time we go out there,” Snitker said. “Every time we’re out there you’re evaluating. It’s not different now.”

In that event, Teheran might’ve removed himself from consideration to start in October. The question now becomes how he could benefit the team from the bullpen. Teheran has put together a solid season that’s regressed at the worst time.

Across his last three starts, Teheran has allowed 14 earned runs in 11-1/3 innings. The past two outings were against the now-eliminated Phillies, but Tuesday’s debacle against the Royals undoubtedly leaves more concern than comfort as the NLDS nears.

Mike Soroka and Dallas Keuchel are in the postseason rotation. Mike Foltynewicz’s late-season revival has assuredly placed him in the group as well. Max Fried seems like the likeliest fourth starter.

Teheran was relegated to mop-up duties last postseason, when he came out of the bullpen in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. He has just three major-league appearances out of the bullpen and none since 2012.

A veteran who’s started seven consecutive opening days for the organization that developed him could again be an afterthought when the games matter most.

“That’s something that’s going to be hard,” Teheran said. “But they have the choice, they make the decision. My last few outings (shouldn’t overshadow) the whole season. ... There’s a lot of things we need to look at. The postseason is different, a different energy. They’ll make a decision and that’s something that I’ll be ready for. I want to do my best to help my team.”

Judgement day is coming closer. And Teheran could have just made his final impression.

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