ST. LOUIS -- After a dominant performance in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz took the mound again on Wednesday night with the season on the line.
The Braves tabbed Foltynewicz to start Game 5 of their NLDS matchup with the Cardinals at SunTrust Park, though he had a fully stocked and rested bullpen behind him. Even after a disappointing loss in Game 4 on Monday, Atlanta’s confidence was high heading home with a chance to advance behind Foltynewicz.
“Man, it's just been four good games so far -- pitching, hitting, bullpen,” Foltynewicz said before the Braves’ workout on Tuesday afternoon. “You see not many runs have been scored. When they do [score], they're late, and everyone's been fighting until the last out. ... And I'm just going to go out there and battle, and keep these boys in it as best as I can, as long as I can.”
Foltynewicz earned the Braves’ faith on Friday by shutting out the Cardinals for seven innings. The right-hander struck out seven, allowed only three hits and didn’t walk anybody in Atlanta’s 3-0 win. In doing so, he became the first Braves pitcher to throw seven or more scoreless innings in a postseason game since Tom Glavine blanked the Astros for eight innings in Game 2 of the 2001 NLDS.
“I don’t really think he needs a lot of encouragement or knowledge. I think he’s had a couple playoff experiences already now,” Game 4 starter Dallas Keuchel said. “If anything, I’m all ears for him to talk to me. His stuff plays with anybody, and I think if he goes out and does his thing, we’ll be just fine.”
That experience, Foltynewicz said, should help him as he enters Game 5 with a chance to send the Braves to the NL Championship Series presented by GEICO for the first time since 2001. He will have something positive to draw on when he takes the mound in such a pivotal game.
“A little better prepared,” Foltynewicz said. “Now, it's just really going out and executing. We've seen these guys plenty of times now. They've seen me. Kind of just like a chess game a little bit. Just gotta go out there and really just focus and execute.”
Rather than try to use him out of the bullpen in Game 4, Braves manager Brian Snitker held Foltynewicz back to start the win-or-go-home game in Atlanta.
“The last two years, he's pitched in some big games for us and come through,” Snitker said on Tuesday. “And I think he's very prepared for what he's going to go through tomorrow.”
“Potentially the last game or you move on,” Keuchel said. “Nobody’s not available.”
“Everybody's going to be ready. Game 5, I'm sure the adrenaline will be pumping both sides,” Foltynewicz added. “Everybody's going to be aggressive. Everyone's going to be ready.”