As August winds down, the magnitude and implications of each win or loss greaten substantially, especially for playoff contenders.
Nobody knows that better than the Braves right now, who are still in pursuit of the Nationals in the National League East and the Giants for the second NL Wild Card spot. They know this even more because they've lost three games in a row by a total of four runs.
The culprit has mostly been on the offensive side, which hasn't scored more than three runs in a game since an 8-0 victory against the Reds Thursday. Consistency has been the issue, especially in the midst of their 10-game road swing, and it's something the Braves are hoping to correct before making a September push.
"I can't say I'm encouraged that we're the only ones suffering from and feeling that because I think a number of teams have gone through the same thing," said Braves general manager Frank Wren of the offensive struggles. "But it's still frustrating when you go through it. It's frustrating when you don't have the same at-bats day in and day out. It makes for some anxious nights watching the game."
Braves' righty Julio Teheran, who will make his fifth start of August on Wednesday, began the month providing some sleepless nights for fans, allowing 11 earned runs over two starts. But he has since turned things around, most recently featuring six scoreless innings against the Reds last Thursday.
He'll face another promising young righty in Zack Wheeler. Wheeler, whom Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Tuesday was not in danger of exceeding any innings limit, struggled against the A's in his last start, allowing four runs on four hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings.
The righty had been a model of consistency though since the start of July, never throwing fewer than six innings before his outing in Oakland.
"With these guys, the power they have throughout their lineup, you've got to command your stuff from the start," manager Terry Collins said of the Braves. "You fall behind these guys and you get them into hitting counts ... that's how they score. They hit the ball out of the ballpark."
Braves: Venters shut down; Shae's return on hold
While Shae Simmons still hopes to eventually rejoin Atlanta's bullpen this season, Jonny Venters has been forced to at least temporarily halt his bid to return from a second Tommy John surgery.
After Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez announced Tuesday afternoon that Venters' rehab program was being shut down, Wren indicated that the club still believes Simmons simply needs rest to overcome the shoulder discomfort that put him on the disabled list after his July 26 appearance.
Simmons was bidding to join Atlanta's bullpen last week. But after he did not record an out in his second rehab appearance for Triple-A Gwinnett, the rookie reliever was shut down again.
Wren said he did not believe the Braves medical staff believed there was any reason for Simmons to undergo an MRI exam.
Mets: Tejada aiming to work back into the lineup
With Daniel Murphy sitting because of a tight calf, Ruben Tejada started at shortstop Tuesday, a rare opportunity since Wilmer Flores is getting the majority of the playing time for the rest of the season.
Tejada went 1-for-3 with an RBI in the spot start, demonstrating his ability to perform well when given scattered opportunities to play. Lack of consistency, not in the field but at the plate, is something that manager Terry Collins hopes his young infielder can learn to correct in the near future.
"I thought Ruben has been really, really challenged, just professionally challenged right now," said Collins. "I think when he is getting his opportunities, he is trying to maximize them."
He added: "I think he's changed his approach at the plate again. He's gotten stronger and he tries to drive the ball more than before. He's got the ability, we've just got to get him back to be that player he was a couple of years ago."
• David Wright (neck) and Daniel Murphy (calf) sat out Tuesday's opener with minor injuries and aren't expected to miss any significant time.
• Mets center fielder Juan Lagares has hit two home runs in his last three games. Previously, he had two home runs in his last 93 games.
• Justin Upton finished Tuesday 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and an RBI after going 0-for-9 in two games since a 13-game hitting streak.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.