NEW YORK (AP) — Julio Teheran looked sharp in his last audition to become part of Atlanta’s playoff rotation, throwing two-hit ball for six innings Thursday night in a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets.
After the game, Braves manager Brian Snitker applauded Teheran.
“That’s the way I wanted to finish the regular season,” Teheran said.
The NL East champion Braves didn’t start first baseman Freddie Freeman and center fielder Ender Inciarte, and they were minus injured shortstop Dansby Swanson for the second straight game.
Teheran (9-9) allowed one run, struck out five and walked two, and trailed 1-0 when he exited. The start came exactly a week before the Braves are set to begin the postseason against the NL West champs, either Colorado or the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the race for home-field advantage in that matchup, Atlanta and Colorado are 89-70 and the Dodgers are 88-71; the Braves don’t own either tiebreaker, having lost the head-to-head season series against both clubs.
Teheran won just one of his last 10 outings, but Snitker observed, “he’s pitched better than this record.”
Plus this: Opponents hit only .196 against him, besting Greg Maddux (.197 in 1995) for the lowest mark in franchise history, the Braves said. All-Star Mike Foltynewicz could top him — he’s at .198 going into Friday night’s start at Philadelphia.
The 27-year-old Teheran started for the Braves the previous time they made the playoffs in 2013 and has long been a key piece of their staff, but his place this October is uncertain. He’s been inconsistent at times, albeit more steady down the stretch.
Snitker hasn’t said who will pitch in the playoffs. Foltynewicz, Kevin Gausman and Anibal Sanchez are considered likely to lock down the first three starts in the best-of-five NL Division Series, perhaps leaving Teheran and Sean Newcomb and maybe even rookie Touki Toussaint to compete for the fourth spot.
“I got in the back of my mind what I’m thinking,” Snitker said, without revealing any details.
“This isn’t tryout camp,” he said, adding, “I think the total body of work speaks for itself.”
Teheran gave up a leadoff double to Brandon Nimmo in the first and a home run to Kevin Plawecki in the third.
Pinch-hitter Devin Mesoraco connected for a three-run homer off Brad Brach in the seventh that made it 4-0.
Ronald Acuna Jr. hit an RBI single in the eighth.
The Braves beat New York in the opener of this three-game series for their sixth straight win. But Mets starters Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Jason Vargas combined for 21 scoreless innings in the set, and New York finished 6-13 against Atlanta this year.
Vargas (7-9) needed just 77 pitches for seven shutout innings in his best start of the year.
“Good job,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “He finished the season strong for us.”
Vargas gave up three hits, walked none and struck out six, pitching in light rain in the later innings. The 35-year-old lefty tied for the major league lead with 18 wins last season with Kansas City but struggled early after signing a $16 million, two-year deal with the Mets.
Vargas went 5-1 with a 2.62 ERA in his last eight starts.
Robert Gsellman worked the ninth for his 13th save. He struck out Freeman with two on to end it.
WRIGHT YOU ARE
Mets third baseman David Wright didn’t play despite scattered chants of “We want David!” Activated this week, he hasn’t played in the majors since May 2016 because of neck, back and shoulder injuries. The Mets have planned for him to start Saturday night at Citi Field against Miami.
The 35-year-old team captain left a spirited reminder of his days in the clubhouse before the game. A bottle of tequila was put in each teammate’s locker, with his No. 5 and the message, “Thanks for the memories.”
Braves: No update on Swanson, diagnosed this week with a partially torn ligament in his left hand. A progress report is possible over the weekend. Swanson’s status remains uncertain for Atlanta’s playoff opener next Thursday. Charlie Culberson again took Swanson’s place.
Braves: Foltynewicz (12-10, 2.88 ERA) pitches at Citizens Bank Park to open the final series of the regular season. Last Saturday, he took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning against the Phillies in the division clincher.
Mets: RHP Corey Oswalt (3-3, 6.08) starts at home vs. RHP Jose Urena (8-12, 4.07) and the Marlins.
By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer