ATLANTA — Julio Teheran has had a so-so season for Atlanta, but he may be the perfect pitcher to have on the mound Sunday as the Braves continue to try to hold first place in the National League East.
Teheran is 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 10 career games (nine starts) against Pittsburgh and has allowed only one earned run in his past 27 1/3 innings against the Pirates.
The Braves (75-60) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 comeback victory over the Pirates on Saturday night and lead the Phillies, who lost to the Chicago Cubs 7-1 in Philadelphia, by three games.
The Pirates (66-70) will start rookie Nick Kingham in the series final at SunTrust Park after veteran Ivan Nova, who is 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in four career starts versus Atlanta, was scratched.
Teheran (9-7, 4.18 ERA) beat the Pirates with a strong seven-inning outing in Pittsburgh after Nova (7-9, 4.35 ERA) lost a day earlier in the Braves’ three-game sweep Aug. 20-22.
Teheran gave up two hits and a run in his victory as the right-hander walked one after experiencing control problems most of the season.
“It was the best command I’ve had in a while,” he said afterward.
Teheran’s four-seam fastball averaged only 87.7 mph, but he was able to locate and keep the Pirates off balance with his other pitches.
“Warming up, I felt I didn’t need to throw harder,” Teheran said. “I wasn’t forcing it. I was throwing down and up and commanding.”
That wasn’t the same way that Teheran had gone after the Pirates in previous seasons.
“It’s a different pitcher than we saw a few years ago,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He made pitches. He slowed the game down. He spun the ball extremely well.”
After going 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in five starts through the Pittsburgh game, Teheran didn’t fare as well in his most recent start against Tampa Bay. He allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Rays in a no-decision and surrendered his 24th homer of the season.
Kingham (5-6, 4.92 ERA) will get the start for the Pirates opposite Teheran because Nova is away from his team for personal reasons.
Nova’s absence can’t be bad news for the Braves despite their victory against him two weeks ago in Pittsburgh.
Nova, a victim of poor run support most the season, lost for the first time to Atlanta despite giving up only four hits and two runs in six innings. He didn’t walk anyone in that game and has issued two free passes in 27 1/3 career innings against the Braves.
Kingham will be making his 15th major league appearance and 13th start.
Kingham, who has never faced the Braves, made his two appearances out of the bullpen after lasting a total of four innings in starts at the end of July and beginning of August before being sent to Triple-A Indianapolis.
The 26-year-old right-hander allowed six runs in three innings against the New York Mets and then four runs (two earned) in one inning before being pulled against the Chicago Cubs.
The highlight for Kingham this season came in his major league debut at the end of April, when he limited St. Louis to one hit in seven scoreless innings while striking out nine and walking none.