Teheran sharp again but Braves blow ninth-inning lead vs. Giants

Braves pitcher Luke Jackson, right, leaves the dugout after being unable to hold a 3-1 lead in the Braves' 4-3 loss.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Credit: Jeff Chiu

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Braves pitcher Luke Jackson, right, leaves the dugout after being unable to hold a 3-1 lead in the Braves' 4-3 loss. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Credit: Jeff Chiu

Credit: Jeff Chiu

Julio Teheran's sharpness will go unfounded among May's cluttered Braves storylines, but a consistent Teheran could be the backbone of what's shaping into a formidable rotation. The bullpen, however, remains an unpredictable experience.

Unfortunately for Teheran and his team, luck didn’t sway in the Braves’ favor in the final inning. Staked with a 3-1 lead, two outs in the ninth, Luke Jackson couldn’t seal the win. Joe Panik’s two-run walk-off hit gave the Giants a 4-3 win over the Braves Tuesday night.

“It just seemed like a lot of the hits were on (Jackson’s) breaking ball,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It just didn’t have the depth it normally does and they found holes. They put some good at-bats on him. They were tough, there were two-strike hits. They did a good job.”

Tuesday’s slippage, while disappointing against an offensively anemic Giants lineup, was partly a product of bad breaks. Specifically, Pablo Sandoval’s soft grounder to third in which Josh Donaldson didn’t have a play.

Jackson has blown three saves since assuming regular closer duties. Context: One was a result of a single bad pitch, the other two had sour luck. Of course, in the end it’s a results-oriented game, and a two-run lead against a lackadaisical offense shouldn’t present many problems.

As frustrated as fans will be, Jackson has proved plenty capable of handling that spot for the foreseeable future. And the team seems content with him managing the bulk of closing opportunities.

Earlier in the evening, Teheran scattered three hits over 5-2/3 innings. He lowered his ERA to 0.79 over his past four starts. Thanks to a splendid May, his overall ERA has dipped to 3.67. Not bad for a guy who was left for dead following last year’s postseason.

“I’ve been making better pitches,” Teheran said. “All my pitches are working right now. I’ve been challenging hitters. … B-Mac (catcher Brian McCann) and I were on the same page as we’ve been doing the last couple starts and again today.”

Over his four-game stretch, opponents have hit just .132 (10-for-76) against the veteran right-hander. Teheran has allowed just two runs across his past 23-2/3 innings. He’s permitted one or no runs in those past four starts – a stark difference since a mediocre finish to April, when he allowed 12 runs over 17-2/3 innings.

“He’s been just solid,” Snitker said. “He’s been very consistent and deserved a better fate than he’s gotten, as far as the win column.”

Julio Teheran of the Braves pitches against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on May 21, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Credit: Lachlan Cunningham

Credit: Lachlan Cunningham

As Mike Soroka and Max Fried rise into blossoming-ace status, Teheran’s reliability is pivotal in filling out the rotation. With how he’s pitched lately, he’s been an ideal middle-of-the-rotation complement to the star duo.

“He’s been in control these last four starts,” McCann said. “He’s dialed into the strike zone. He’s keeping hitters off balance. He’s been pitching great.”

The Braves, who were on the verge of five consecutive wins at Oracle Park before Panik’s spoiler, will start California native Max Fried in the third game of the series against Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija Wednesday.

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