WASHINGTON -- Julio Teheran appeared to be heading for disaster when he allowed the Nationals six hits and four runs through the first two innings of Friday night's game. But by the time the Braves completed their 6-4, 10-inning win, it was apparent that Teheran played a vital role in the victory.
"That's the first thing I said when I got in [the clubhouse]," Braves catcher Gerald Laird said. "I told [Teheran] that was a big game for you to pitch tonight, and build off."
Time will tell if the start does prove to be a turning point for Teheran, who has made just six starts at the big league level. But he seemed to take a big step in the maturation process as he bounced back from his early struggles to limit the Nationals to two baserunners -- courtesy of two fifth-inning walks -- in the final four innings of his six-inning effort.
"There is no question that Gerald Laird got Julio Teheran through those last four innings," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who entered the season with the plan to have the veteran catcher behind the plate for each of the rookie pitcher's starts.
Teheran needed 44 pitches to complete the first two innings, and just 53 more pitches to complete his final four frames. The turnaround came once Laird went away from the 22-year-old pitcher's still-developing two-seam fastball, which was coming back over the middle of the plate when he was trying to throw it away from right-handed hitters and inside to left-handed hitters.
"We made an adjustment where we stayed on the inside part of the plate to righties and away to lefties," Laird said. "If we went away, we just went with four-seamers and sliders. That way, we had something going the other way, because that sinker had a tendency to come back."
Teheran has also experienced some recent inconsistencies with his changeup, a pitch with which he had success during his early Minor League days. But Laird has seen the young pitcher grow mentally through his first two starts this year.
"It could have got ugly real quick," Laird said of Friday's game. "He gave up two runs both of the first two innings. With young guys, that can be a lopsided game real quick and kill our bullpen. But the kid stepped up."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.