The Atlanta Braves' baffling offensive struggles have them mired in a dismal slump during which they've wasted some solid efforts from their starting pitchers.
Julio Teheran knows the feeling.The right-hander takes the mound Friday night as the Braves look to show some improvement at the plate and beat the Chicago Cubs for the fifth straight time at Turner Field.Atlanta (18-15) averaged 3.8 runs per game through its first 23, but it has been outscored 44-17 while dropping eight of 10 since. During that stretch, the Braves beat Cincinnati 1-0 on April 27 before ending a seven-game skid with Wednesday's 2-1 win over St. Louis.They went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position in Thursday's 7-1 loss to the Cardinals."It's tough," said third baseman Chris Johnson, who went 1 for 4. "We thought we had a little momentum after (Wednesday) night, then we run into a brick wall."Second baseman Dan Uggla went 0 for 4 and is hitting just .184 on the season after batting a career-worst .179 in 2013. There are rumors that Atlanta is looking to replace Uggla, though he said he's trying to stay focused on improving."I don't (think about it)," Uggla told the team's official website. "I'm on the field to do my job. That's it."Teheran (2-2, 1.80 ERA) has been doing his job quite well, though he's received four runs of support while going 1-1 with a 1.16 ERA over his last four starts. He allowed three solo homers and one other hit while striking out seven in seven innings Saturday, but suffered a 3-1 loss to San Francisco."They were the pitches that I wanted to throw and where I wanted to throw them," Teheran said. "All my pitches were working really good. I made three mistakes and it cost me three runs."Teheran, who has pitched at least six innings in each of his seven starts, gave up one run over six and struck out seven in a 5-2 win the last time he faced the Cubs on Sept. 22.Chicago (12-21), which has lost six of the last seven matchups with the Braves, totaled nine runs during a four-game losing streak before setting a season high for runs in Thursday's 12-5 win over the crosstown White Sox.Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro each hit two-run homers before Mike Olt hit his first career grand slam in the eighth as the Cubs tied their season best with 15 hits."We had some good at-bats, some big at-bats in some key situations," manager Rick Renteria said. "Then we got some thump, got some balls hit well."Rizzo went 3 for 5 and is hitting .357 with four homers over his last eight for the Cubs, who will send Jason Hammel to the mound.Hammel (4-1, 2.43) hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his six starts, giving up three through six innings of Chicago's 5-4 loss to St. Louis on Sunday. He had gone at least 6 2/3 in each of his previous five outings.The right-hander was upset with himself, though, after allowing two runs to score with two outs in the second inning."Just can't do that," Hammel said. "Put a guy on base and bad things happen."Hammel is 1/3 with a 6.39 ERA in six starts against the Braves, but he had a no-hitter through 6 2/3 innings and finished with a one-hitter in a 5-0 victory the last time he faced them June 16, 2012, while with Baltimore.