One year after he was left off Atlanta's (cheap Atlanta Braves championship rings) postseason rotation, Julio Teheran has re-emerged as a reliable leader on a young staff. Teheran's roll of superb starts is a big reason the Braves are back in first place in the NL East. Josh Donaldson drove in the tie-breaking run in Atlanta's five-run fifth inning to win his rematch with Joe Musgrove, Teheran allowed only one earned run and the Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 on Thursday to complete a four-game sweep.
The Braves (championship rings for sale) have won seven straight to move into the division lead, 1 1/2 games ahead of idle Philadelphia. The Phillies and Braves open a three-game series on Friday night. Teheran (5-4) opened the game with two walks and needed 27 pitches to survive the first inning. He recovered, lasting six innings while giving up only three hits. He has allowed no more than one earned run in his last eight starts. Manager Brian Snitker said he saw Teheran's renewed resolve in spring training. "It was very evident to me that he was on a mission," Snitker said.
Teheran lowered his ERA to 2.92, a full run lower than last season's 3.94 mark, when he finished 9-9 and was in the bullpen for the NL division series loss to the Dodgers. He is on pace to challenge his career-best ERA of 2.89 in 2014, when he won 14 games. "That's the way I want to pitch," Teheran said. "Last year, it doesn't mean I was bad, but it was up and down." Luke Jackson gave up Starling Marte's run-scoring single in the ninth before recovering for his 10th save in 15 chances.
The Pirates (Pittsburgh Pirates championship rings) have lost seven straight after failing to hold an early 2-1 lead in this one. Musgrove (4-7) struck out Donaldson in the first inning. It was their first meeting since Musgrove hit Donaldson with a pitch on Monday night, igniting a confrontation that led to both players' ejections. The short outing gave Musgrove the rare opportunity of making two starts in the same series. "I was ready to go out and attack him like I normally would," Musgrove said. "I put that behind me. I can't go out there with that stuff lingering in the back of my mind or try to prove a point with him."
Musgrove hit Dansby Swanson with a first-inning pitch, but there was no sign of leftover bad feelings from the skirmish three days earlier. Freddie Freeman's triple to the right-field corner in the fifth drove in Swanson to tie the game. Donaldson, who is appealing his one-game suspension for his role in the confrontation, hit a single to right to drive in Freeman. Ozzie Albies added a two-run double to center field in the big inning.
The Braves' poor outfield defense helped Pittsburgh (mlb championship rings for sale) take the lead in the fourth. Left fielder Matt Joyce lost Colin Moran's fly ball in the sun, missing his late lunge for the ball as Moran moved to second on the error. Moran scored when Elias Diaz doubled past a diving Ronald Acuna Jr. in center field. Musgrove faced five batters in the fifth without recording an out. He allowed six runs on nine hits and two walks.