Attempting to battle back from the right shoulder ailments that derailed his career the past two seasons, Chacin proved effective enough during Spring Training to earn the fifth spot in Atlanta's rotation. But he looked more like a front-line starter as he recorded eight strikeouts and needed just 69 pitches to complete his six scoreless innings on Tuesday.
Chacin's efficient outing put him in rare company. John Smoltz is the only other pitcher in Atlanta Braves history (since 1966) to record at least eight strikeouts while throwing fewer than 70 pitches. Smoltz did it twice (Sept. 23, 1998, and Sept. 27, 2007).
"[Chacin] is facing a pretty darn good lineup here, and he navigated through it pretty well," Gonzalez said. "So, I'm going to lay my head on the pillow and say, 'That's a [heck] of a start we got from Chacin, and I can't wait to see him pitch again in five days."
Chacin stayed ahead of hitters on a consistent basis and benefited from the recent development of a cutter. After he surrendered a pair of singles in the fifth, he ended the inning by striking out Michael Taylor with runners at second and third base.
"I'm really happy that I've got no problem with my arm," Chacin said. "I feel I can make pitches when I want to. Before, it was hard for me to throw the ball where I wanted. Right now, I'm just trying to stay healthy and keep my arm strong. I'm just trying to make pitches."
Chacin was set to pitch the seventh inning, but he was removed for a pinch-hitter after Gordon Beckham delivered a two-out double in a scoreless game. Though the veteran pitcher certainly had more in the tank, he understood why Gonzalez opted to remove him after just 69 pitches.
"It's nothing-nothing and you've got a chance to score a run," Chacin said. "It was a good matchup with righty against lefty. I was hoping he would get a base hit there and we would win the game. That's the main thing there. I was fine with it."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.