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CIN@ATL: Teheran fans five over eight scoreless

Julio Teheran is the ace of a Braves starting rotation that leads the Majors with a 2.47 ERA. His 1.80 ERA and MLB-best seven quality starts are a big reason why.

Teheran will go for another one Friday night in the series opener against the Cubs at Turner Field.

But even the best pitchers are prone to mistakes, and Teheran made three in his most recent start against the Giants on Saturday. He surrendered three solo homers and not much else in seven innings as he took his first loss since Opening Day.

"I made a mistake and I've got to pay for it," Teheran said. "And that was the three homers -- three mistakes that I made."

The three earned runs Teheran gave up against San Francisco were a season high, adding perspective to just how well he pitched in his first six starts. In his final three April starts, he gave up only one run and walked three batters in 24 innings.

Yet he was saddled with no-decisions in two of those three starts as a result of the Braves offering him only 2.86 runs of support in his seven starts this season. Atlanta plated just one run in his loss to the Giants.

"We all know that it's part of the game and sometimes we don't get the run support," Teheran said. "That's when we've got to take our team back and just, when we don't have the opportunity, just to hold the other team."

Meanwhile, the Cubs are scoring 4.5 runs per game in support of Jason Hammel, who is enjoying a stellar 2014 of his own with six quality starts and a 2.43 ERA. The disparity of run support between the two pitchers is evident in their records.

Teheran has two wins in seven starts, compared to four victories in six starts for Hammel, who received his first no-decision of the year in his most recent outing.

Hammel struggled with his command against the Cardinals on Sunday, giving up a season-high seven hits and issuing a pair of two-out walks that both led to runs in six innings. He entered the day with the best WHIP in the Majors.

Although Hammel was not on the mound in a two-run ninth by St. Louis, the two walks proved to be the difference in Chicago's 5-4 loss.

"I was trying to find my command -- it really wasn't there," Hammel said of the outing. "It was a grind, and I made pitches for most of the night. Two-out walks in the big leagues, those are no good."

Braves: Kimbrel in top form
It seems safe to discard any concerns that developed when Craig Kimbrel struggled in his first two appearances after resting a sore right shoulder for a week. The Braves closer has surrendered just one hit while holding opponents scoreless in his past five appearances.

Kimbrel retired just two of the seven Mets he faced before being removed during the ninth inning of an April 19 win. Two days later, he squandered a one-run, ninth-inning lead against the Marlins and then concluded that appearance with three consecutive strikeouts.

The impressive conclusion to that April 21 appearance against the Marlins marked the start of a dominant run for Kimbrel. He enters Friday having struck out 13 of the past 21 batters he had faced.

Kimbrel's fastball had been sitting around 96 mph most of this season. But six of the seven fastballs he threw while striking out two Cardinals in Tuesday's perfect ninth inning were clocked at 97 mph or above.

Despite those two shaky appearances two weeks ago, Kimbrel has struck out exactly half of the 52 batters he has faced.

Cubs: Setting the tone
One year ago, the Cubs were 13-20 and 8 1/2 games back after 33 games in the National League Central. Heading into Thursday's finale against the White Sox, the Cubs are 12-21 and nine games back. General manager Jed Hoyer said he's pleased with what manager Rick Renteria has done so far.

"Very happy," Hoyer said when asked about the rookie manager. "He creates a great environment for these guys. A lot of guys are playing much better than last year.

"We've given him a very young team," Hoyer said. "We've given him a very young bullpen that doesn't have a lot of experience. I think he's managed that really well."

Renteria also has had to deal with injuries to two pitchers projected as key pieces in the bullpen, Jose Veras and Pedro Strop. Two of the outfielders, Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney, are sidelined with hamstring injuries.

Renteria has done his best to keep things upbeat.

"I like the tone," Hoyer said. "Obviously, the results, the wins and losses, are probably no different than it was with Dale [Sveum last year]. We're not in a place right now where we're going to evaluate [Renteria] based on the standings in the paper in the morning."

Worth noting
• Justin Upton is batting .304 (7-for-23) with two doubles, a homer and seven RBIs against Hammel.

• The last time the Braves played the Cubs, Atlanta clinched the NL East with a 5-2 victory at Wrigley Field on Sept. 22, 2013. The last time the Cubs visited Turner Field, B.J. Upton and Justin Upton both homered in the ninth to lift the Braves, 6-5, on April 6, 2013.

• Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said they are getting close to meeting with some of the prospective Draft picks. "We've certainly narrowed things down," Hoyer said. The Cubs have the fourth pick in the June 5 First-Year Player Draft.

• The Cubs tied a season high with 15 hits on Thursday in a 12-5 win over the White Sox.

• Rookie Mike Olt hit his first career grand slam on Thursday, and has homered in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. Olt has six home runs and seven singles among his total 14 hits.

• Rookie Brian Schlitter made his seventh straight scoreless appearance on Thursday, and picked up the win in relief of starter Jake Arrieta, who was lifted after four innings.

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