On Opening Day, Julio Teheran had four Major League starts under his belt and was the Braves' fifth starter. But when he takes the mound on the final day of the season on Sunday, he will do so as one of the most consistent starters in the rotation.
Teheran has allowed one earned run or fewer in seven of his 11 starts since the All-Star break, and his 3.09 ERA is the best among Braves pitchers with more than five starts. His previous outing, during which he allowed just four hits and one run over six sharp innings, was overshadowed by a Nationals loss that clinched the National League East for the Braves.
"He's been unbelievable all year, and what he did today in the six innings that he pitched was pretty unbelievable," first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "It was a big day and he did an unbelievable job."
While the Braves have already clinched home-field advantage in the National League Division Series, which begins Thursday, they still have a chance at home-field advantage throughout the NLCS. With a win and a Cardinals loss on Sunday, the Braves will avoid a first-round matchup against the Dodgers and instead face the winner of the Wild Card Game between the Reds and Pirates.
The Phillies hope to prevent that from happening. While they have nothing left to gain this season, they also have nothing left to lose.
"It's still a pride thing," Cliff Lee said. "You've still got to go out there and do your job and do everything you can to win. I know we're out of it, but it's not over till it's over."
Right-hander Zach Miner will start for Philadelphia. He was pressed into action when Kyle Kendrick's season unexpectedly ended due to a shoulder injury. Miner allowed four hits and one run over four innings in his last start.
Phillies: Amaro discusses futures of Kendrick, Ruiz
The Phillies answered one of their biggest offseason questions when they removed the interim tag from manager Ryne Sandberg's title and signed him to a three-year contract. But other questions loom, including the future of catcher Carlos Ruiz.
Ruiz, who will become a free agent at the end of the season, was out of Saturday's lineup with a bone bruise, and if he plays Sunday, it could be his last game in a Phillies uniform. Ruiz said he would like to remain in Philadelphia, however, and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. stressed the importance of re-signing the longtime catcher.
"He is a priority, just because of the position," Amaro said. "We don't have anybody who is going to step in. [Cameron] Rupp has done a nice job. [Erik] Kratz, when he played, did OK. But I can't anoint either one of those guys as an everyday catcher. I talked to [Ruiz]. He talked to me. I think, mutually, we would like to continue the relationship. But again, it takes two to tango. At some point we'll get together, negotiate, and see where it goes."
While Ruiz's future is in question, Amaro said Saturday that the team will tender starter Kyle Kendrick a contract in the offseason.
Braves: Kimbrel notches 50th save
• With his Major League-leading 50th save in Atlanta's win Friday night, closer Craig Kimbrel became just the 10th pitcher to record 50 saves in a season. John Smoltz is the only other Brave to accomplish the feat.
"It definitely does mean a lot," Kimbrel said. "It's something that doesn't come around every year. Even if you do have a good pitching year, you might not be able to do something that special."
Kimbrel entered Saturday leading all National League relievers in ERA (1.23). His 139 career saves rank second among closers before their 26th birthday. Francisco Rodriguez had 146 saves before turning 26.
• Brian McCann's strained groin muscle felt better on Saturday, and manager Fredi Gonzalez didn't rule out the possibility of McCann entering Sunday's game at some point. The most likely scenario, however, is that McCann rests until Game 1 of the NLDS.
• The Phillies have not homered in their past 10 games, their longest drought since an 11-game homerless streak in 1989.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.