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CIN@PIT: Hurdle discusses Locke and Grilli's outings

The Braves were beaten by the Royals on Wednesday, putting to rest any crazy talk about Atlanta being on pace for a 150-12 record.

Now it's a more reasonable 139-23 pace.

In all seriousness, Atlanta has looked like baseball's best team during its 12-2 start, and even though the 10-game winning streak is snapped, that's still the case.

The Braves have outscored opponents, 68-27, while sporting a team ERA of 1.77 -- and that's without getting much help from their fifth starter.

Right-hander Julio Teheran looks to change that on Thursday, when he and the Braves travel to Pittsburgh to face lefty Jeff Locke and the Pirates at PNC Park.

Teheran, 22, hasn't quite shown the stuff that ranks him as Atlanta's top prospect, according to MLB.com, through two starts. He's posted a 7.36 ERA in 11 innings, though he rebounded nicely in his most recent outing, against Washington, after allowing four runs in the first two innings.

"For a young kid, the wheels definitely could have come off, and then next thing you know, he gives up five or six runs, and then we're into the bullpen early in the game," Braves catcher Gerald Laird said afterward. "He bounced back and showed me something. He battled."

Teheran faces a Pirates squad that has likewise rebounded, entering Thursday having won six of their last eight following a four-game skid.

Locke, 25, will be making his third start of the season after throwing five innings of one-run ball against Cincinnati his last time out.

He'll have a tough act to follow, as Pittsburgh tries to build on Wednesday's shutout of St. Louis. A.J. Burnett flirted with a no-hitter through six innings before Carlos Beltran hit a two-out double in the seventh.

The Pirates have protected PNC Park well over their nine-game homestand, and are 4-1 following Wednesday's win. They'll look to do the same on Thursday behind Locke, who hurled a gem in his only career start against the Braves, last year. He allowed one earned run in that win, with five walks and six strikeouts, and has a 4.09 ERA through two starts this season.

Pirates: Marte off to hot start
Outfielder Starling Marte enters Thursday's game riding a career-long 10-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .356. He's also starting hot on a daily basis, going 8-for-13 in the first inning this season.

• Burnett fanned eight on Wednesday, soaring over 2,000 for his career. He now has 2,006.

• Second baseman Neil Walker entered Wednesday hitting .407 during a six-game hitting streak.

Braves: Avilan hopes to avoid DL
The Braves appear to have avoided a scare with left-handed reliever Luis Avilan, who left Tuesday's game with a strained left hamstring and cramping after he fell to the ground in pain. Although he was walking with a limp prior to Wednesday's loss to the Royals, he wants to avoid a stint on the disabled list.

"I hope I don't have to go to the DL, because it's better now, it's way better now," Avilan said. "Probably in two days, I'll be fine."

• Atlanta's two-game series against Kansas City accounted for its only home games from April 8-28.

Worth noting
• The Pirates took two of three from the Braves to end 2012 and have a 3.56 ERA in 40 games against Atlanta at PNC Park.

• Teheran tossed two scoreless innings of relief against the Pirates in last year's regular-season finale.

• Braves infielder Chris Johnson has a six-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .500.

• The Braves have outhomered their opponents, 25-7.

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