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Avilan unable to sustain sensational stretch

Avilan unable to sustain sensational stretch


ATLANTA -- As Braves left-handed reliever Luis Avilan proved to be nearly flawless over a three-month stretch, he continued to realize he was in a role that would inevitably humble him.

"My name is Luis Avilan," Avilan said. "My name is not Mariano Rivera or Craig Kimbrel. "

While not allowing an earned run and limiting opponents to a .191 on-base percentage in 35 appearances from May 24-Aug. 14, Avilan experienced a stretch similar to ones produced by Rivera and Kimbrel. But the Atlanta southpaw has been reintroduced to the mortal level while allowing a run in three of his past seven appearances.

"That's going to happen," Avilan said. "I can't be perfect all season long. It's a long season. If this is my time to give up some runs, I'll take it."

There is certainly reason to believe Avilan could be feeling some fatigue as he nears the end of his first full big league season. This is also the first year of his professional career that he has been solely used as a reliever. Consequently, he has been introduced to a daily grind that was unfamiliar during his days as a starting pitcher at the Minor League level.

But Avilan, who entered Friday with a team-high 63 appearances, feels he is physically prepared to remain strong through the end of October.

"I feel really strong," Avilan said. "My [velocity] is still the same. I've been feeling very good. My legs feel strong. I still feel like I can keep pitching for another two months without feeling tired."

Despite his recent hiccups, Avilan still ranks among the top six Major League relievers in ERA (1.44) and opponent's batting average (.168). His success has been a primary reason the Braves have been able to overcome the absences of Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters, a pair of veteran left-handed relievers who underwent Tommy John surgery in May.

Avilan has been one of the game's most reliable relievers since he made his Major League debut just after last year's All-Star break. The 1.42 ERA he has compiled dating back to Aug. 1, 2012, ranks first among the 53 relievers who have made at least 80 appearances during that span.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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