ATLANTA -- As Touki Toussaint spent the past couple of years struggling to live up to tremendous expectations and further introducing himself to the pitching craft, he leaned on the lessons provided from his mother, who denied his wish to focus solely on soccer after he struck out in 22
ATLANTA -- As Touki Toussaint spent the past couple of years struggling to live up to tremendous expectations and further introducing himself to the pitching craft, he leaned on the lessons provided from his mother, who denied his wish to focus solely on soccer after he struck out in 22 of his first 24 Little League at-bats.
A little more than a decade after making sure her son followed through with his attempt to play baseball, Kahaso Kit proudly watched her son ace his Major League debut while guiding the Braves to a 9-1 win over the Marlins in the first game of Monday's doubleheader at SunTrust Park.
"He just stayed pitch to pitch, never got caught up with anything," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I never saw one point where it felt like the game was speeding up on him."
Provided an opportunity to be the latest elite Braves prospect called to the Majors, Toussaint showed poise as he limited the Marlins to one run and two hits over six innings. The 22-year-old right-hander commanded his fastball, produced varying speeds with his plus curveball and displayed a changeup that darted down much like a splitter.
"He just battled all day," Braves right fielder Nick Markakis said. "It looked like he had a pretty good curveball. It's hard to tell from the outfield. He came out the chute throwing strikes, and that's exactly what we needed."
Toussaint's outing, combined with Ronald Acuna Jr. highlighting a three-RBI performance with his latest leadoff homer, helped the Braves move a half-game in front of the Phillies and back into sole possession of first place for the first time since July 5.
Utilized as the 26th man for this doubleheader, Toussaint will now return to Triple-A Gwinnett's roster. He won't be eligible to return to the Majors until Aug. 23, unless he's part of a disabled list transaction. But it's safe to say Toussaint will make at least one more start this month and could be a regular within the rotation in September. "Honestly, it was surreal going out there," Toussaint said. "I was just trying to go out there compete and give the team a chance to win."
Less than 10 years after being introduced to the pitching craft as a sophomore at Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Academy, Toussaint found himself soaking in what became a rapid rise to the Majors. His inability to consistently command his fastball led him to post a 4.53 ERA over 26 combined starts for Class A Advanced Florida and Double-A Mississippi last year. He began this season back at Mississippi and gained just five starts with Triple-A Gwinnett before learning last Thursday that he was being promoted to the Majors.
Toussaint immediately called his mother, who asked him if he was sure Gwinnett manager Damon Berryhill was being serious when he relayed this message. Then he spent a little more than 72 hours trying to keep secret what Braves fans were already anticipating. "Honestly, when you are told, it doesn't hit you," Toussaint said. "Then when you go out there, it doesn't hit you. Now it's starting to feel like, 'All right you're a big leaguer.'"
Toussaint worked a perfect 12-pitch first inning and then consistently missed arm side with his fastball while allowing each of the second inning's first three hitters to reach safely. Derek Dietrich drew a four-pitch walk, JT Riddle singled on a curveball off the plate and Isaac Galloway followed with an RBI double. "In my career, I've been in that situation a lot and struggled," Toussaint said. "It was like, 'All right, you've been here before, now execute pitches.'"
Toussaint proved up to the challenge, as he followed Galloway's double by retiring 14 of the final 16 batters he faced. The only other Marlins player to reach during the first six innings was J.T. Realmuto, who was hit by a pitch in the third and then drew a walk in the sixth.
"I was impressed with the whole package," Snitker said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Power surge: Acuna highlighted a five-run sixth inning with a double and also got the Braves rolling when he opened the bottom of the first with a homer off Pablo Lopez. The 20-year-old became the first Atlanta player to homer in three straight games from the leadoff spot since Rafael Furcal (July 7-10, 2004). Acuna has tallied two of his three leadoff homers within the past three games. More >
When Markakis teamed up with Johan Camargo to open the fourth with consecutive doubles, he increased his NL-leading total to 37. The All-Star outfielder is on pace to record 51 doubles, which would match the franchise record Hugh Duffy set in 1894. Marcus Giles set the modern-day franchise record with 49 doubles in 2003.
Markakis, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman are all on pace to record at least 74 extra-base hits -- a total that has been reached just 25 times in franchise history.
HE SAID IT
"It's a game where you learn something new every day. It never gets boring. So that is something I gravitated towards and I loved it." -- Toussaint, on baseball
Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz will start Monday's nightcap against the Marlins at 7:35 p.m. ET. Foltynewicz has seemingly righted himself since enduring a rough four-start stretch around the All-Star break. The Marlins will counter with Merandy Gonzalez, who will be making his first career start.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.