While he started off a bit shaky, Julio Teheran has since found his groove.
The San Diego Padres' Jason Marquis has shined of late, too.Teheran takes the mound opposite Marquis as the visiting Atlanta Braves open a three-game set against the Padres on Monday night.After posting a 7.31 ERA in his first three starts, Teheran (4-2, 3.30 ERA) has significantly turned things around. The 22-year-old right-hander is 4-2 with a 2.13 ERA over his last eight outings, a stretch during which he's struck out 43 and walked eight in 55 innings."He has grown up a lot as this season has gone along," catcher Gerald Laird told MLB's official website. "It's a lot of fun to go out there and watch him pitch."Teheran had everything working Wednesday in a 5-0 win over Pittsburgh. He struck out a career-high 11 and threw 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball before giving up a single to Brandon Inge."He's gaining more and more confidence," Laird added. "Once he goes out there and has a good game, he wants to do better. The last six, seven outings he's been right there going six, seven innings for us every time and giving us a chance to win. This kid just puts in the time and the work. He works hard in between starts, he works on things in his bullpen and it's starting to show in the game."Marquis has also been superb over the last six weeks, going 6-0 with a 3.28 ERA. The veteran right-hander hasn't won seven consecutive decisions since going a career-best 11-0 over an 18-start stretch in 2004 with St. Louis."He's done what we ask of our starting pitchers," manager Bud Black said. "He's hung in there and given us a chance to win. He's a bulldog."Marquis delivered again in Wednesday's 6-2 road win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing two runs and three hits in 6 1/3 innings."Marquis is a tough matchup," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's a guy who keeps the ball down, he can run the ball at him and break the ball to the other side."Marquis, who spent the first four years of his career with Atlanta, is 3-5 over nine starts against his former team. His 7.69 ERA in those games is by far his highest mark against any NL club.Sitting comfortably atop the NL East, the Braves (39-24) have won 17 of 23, including seven of nine this month. Atlanta beat the Dodgers 8-1 on Sunday to salvage a split of that four-game road series.Dan Uggla had two homers and four RBIs and Freddie Freeman drove in three runs. While Uggla is batting .193, he's tied for second on the club with 13 homers."The batting average is what it is," Uggla said. "It ain't the first time I've hit .180, .170, .160, whatever. But I throw those numbers out the door. ... I know what I'm capable of doing. And if I can be more consistent and help these guys out by driving in some runs, that's all that matters."The Padres (29-34) are coming off Sunday's disheartening 8-7, 10-inning loss at Colorado. Luke Gregerson, filling in for injured closer Huston Street, gave up three runs in the ninth before Joe Thatcher surrendered a game-ending two-out RBI single in the 10th."It's a tough loss for us, a game we needed to win," said Thatcher, who also gave up a walkoff homer in Friday's 10-9 defeat. "I didn't step up two different times here, so it's hard to swallow."
Over the last week, Jason Heyward is hitting .414 with a 1.055 OPS, a brief run of production in an otherwise lost season. What has been the key to his hot streak and, possibly, his season turnaround? He's crushing soft stuff, particularly against right pitchers.
*.571 BA vs offspeed pitches from RHP over last week
In his last start - which nearly resulted in a no-hitter, Teheran threw his slider more often than he had in any start in his career. That's been a trend recently, and he's throwing it with more velocity and more effectiveness.