ATLANTA -- Sean Newcomb was the first of the many promising prospects to be introduced to the Braves' rotation this year. His instant success was followed by a rough patch, within which he learned some of the lessons that have helped him close this season in encouraging fashion.
Though he wasn't able to lean on the offspeed stuff that had helped him in recent starts, Newcomb proved he had the fortitude to persevere as he delivered his latest solid start and helped the Braves claim a 7-2 win over the Phillies on Friday night at SunTrust Park. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 10 of his past 11 starts.
"Having some success is definitely the best thing going forward," Newcomb said. "I can come into spring knowing I can hopefully be in this rotation with some other younger guys. I'm definitely going to just try to carry it over next year."
Newcomb induced a Freddy Galvis double-play groundout after issuing a game-opening walk and held the Phillies hitless until the fourth inning, when Cesar Hernandez led off with a double and Galvis followed with a single. Newcomb then proceeded to retire six straight before allowing three of the four batters faced in the sixth to reach safely.
As Newcomb scattered four hits and limited the Phillies to two runs over 5 1/3 innings, he threw his four-seamer 73 percent of the time, bettering the previous career high (70 percent) produced during his June 10 Major League debut against the Mets. He struggled to find a feel for his curveball during the early innings and didn't use his changeup nearly as often as he had in his previous two starts, when he truly seemed to find a feel for the pitch.
"The changeup has been better," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We're still working with the breaking ball to get it better. The thing the kid has got is a fastball, and he can throw it in fastball counts to good hitters. They don't see them, and it jumps on them. There's still more in there."
Though he doesn't have the ability to consistently blow hitters away with the upper-90s heater Luiz Gohara has displayed since joining Atlanta's rotation this month, Newcomb did touch 97.5 mph with his fastball in this start.
When Newcomb surrendered 16 earned runs over 12 2/3 innings during a three-start stretch in July, it became clear he could not get by primarily throwing fastballs and curveballs. He found a feel for his changeup near the start of August and has benefited from its addition, producing a 3.83 ERA over his past eight starts.
"I came in and thought maybe adrenaline would carry me through the first handful of starts," Newcomb said. "Then I hit a little bit of a rough patch. I was issuing my walks and giving up my hits here and there. But I feel like I've been able to zone in a little bit. My offspeed has been better."