MIAMI -- In Friday night's 1-0 loss to the Marlins at Marlins Park, Mike Foltynewicz (Folty) was reminded of the importance of getting ahead with strike one the hard way.
Over six innings, Foltynewicz was brilliant, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out eight -- but nearly every time the right-hander fell behind in the count, he ran into trouble, and it led to the game's decisive run.
:: Players' Weekend presented by Valspar Stain ::
• Braves' Players' Weekend nicknames | Shop for gear
"I thought he was really good. He did a great job," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "To just give up one run, that's pretty good. In the fifth inning, he got his pitch count up, but he battled and never gave in."
Miami's Dan Straily (Thunder) kept the Braves' potent lineup at bay for six stellar innings of his own. Atlanta scattered just three hits and went quietly, unable to crack the hits column for the final five frames.
"He had a good slider, he was hitting his spots," Snitker said of Straily's performance. "Fastball had some good ride on it. He pitched a heck of a game, really good ballgame. We squared some balls up, but he threw a heck of a game."
Foltynewicz was dominant early on, retiring the first 11 Marlins he faced, but with two outs in the fourth, the right-hander surrendered the lone run of the game. Behind in the count, 2-1, to Brian Anderson (Andy), the rookie roped a double into the left-center-field gap on a hanging slider over the heart of the plate. Then, after missing with ball one once again, Derek Dietrich (Dietz) smacked an RBI single to center field.
"It's a funny situation. I actually shook off [Tyler Flowers (Flow)] to Anderson and gave up the hit. I was talking to the pitching staff -- I never shake off Flow or Kurt [Suzuki], really," Foltynewicz said about how he went with a slider over a fastball. "Then to Dietrich there, we got to 3-2 and I threw him a good pitch, but he gets good wood on it. But those were the only two hits I gave up."
• Hammerin' Hank Aaron got his very own Players' Weekend uniform
Foltynewicz has proven in the month of August that he is poised to pitch effectively deep into this postseason chase for the Braves. The right-hander now hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in all five starts this month.
But Foltynewicz is a completely different pitcher when he falls behind and can't throw strike one. Entering play Friday, when ahead in the count, opponents are batting .237 and have struck out 263 times against him. When he falls behind, opponents have a .302 average and have struck out just 81 times.
"Strike one is important for every pitcher," Snitker said. "If you look at the numbers and batting averages against when a pitcher goes strike one compared to ball one, it's unbelievable. Not just for Folty, but everybody, how important it is to throw strike one."
Case in point on Friday: the right-hander threw a strike 14 times to start an at-bat, and he retired all 14 of those batters. The Marlins reached base in five of the other nine at-bats -- during which Foltynewicz tossed a ball on the first pitch.
For Foltynewicz, who is now 10-8 with a 2.67 ERA, there's still plenty to work on but there are also positive takeaways from Friday. Though at one point he walked the opposing pitcher, indicating shaky command, he also showed that he was focused on his mental response to mistakes. With the postseason looming, every start is important, and it's vital for players to stay in control of their emotions.
• Markakis honoring family on Players' Weekend
"I could've gotten upset at myself there, especially when I walked the pitcher," Foltynewicz explained. "It just shouldn't happen, especially getting 3-2, that shouldn't happen, either. But settling down, I think in the years past I would've got upset at myself and lose focus at the task at hand with the batter. So I've gotten a lot better at that, and it's still a work in progress as well."
Despite the loss, the Braves' National League East lead over the Phillies remains at three games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Leading off the ninth, Adam Duvall (Duvy) stepped into the box, looking to start a rally and get his team back in the game. He came just inches away from tying it up.
Pinch-hitting for Ender Inciarte (Game Ender) to face Miami's lefty closer Adam Conley (ACon), Duvall skied a 95.6-mph heater deep to right field. As soon as Duvall hit it, Snitker thought it was a home run.
Said the Braves skipper: "Yeah, I did, when it left his bat. I thought maybe he got it."
Instead, Rafael Ortega hauled it in for the first out of the inning, his glove adjacent to the top of the right-field wall. According to Statcast™, the ball traveled 375 feet with a launch angle of 32 degrees. It left Duvall's bat at 98.7 mph.
To Foltynewicz, the fly ball may have seemed destined for the seats off the bat, but Marlins Park is notorious for swallowing balls that would have home run distance elsewhere.
"This ballpark is just big in general. You love coming to pitch here," Foltynewicz said. "[Duvall's flyout] might have been a different story over at SunTrust or any other park, really, but yeah, it's a great pitcher's ballpark, especially when they've got that roof closed. It's kind of just dead air in there, you really have to get it."
The shutout loss for the Braves snapped a seven-game winning streak against the Marlins. It was Atlanta's second scoreless defeat at the hands of Miami this season -- the Braves were blanked by the Fish on May 18 at SunTrust Park.
Furthermore, the Braves were held to three hits for the second time in three games. It was their seventh shutout loss of the season.
"These guys are balling until the end. It's unfortunate you hit a roadblock sometimes in baseball, that's why you play 162," Foltynewicz said. "You gotta tip your hat to Straily and the bullpen over there for pitching well and go try to get a series this weekend."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the third inning, Ronald Acuna Jr. (Sabanero Soy) continued to rake. The 20-year-old phenom had the green light on 3-0 and blasted a double down the left-field line. Statcast™ clocked his line drive at a blistering 105.3 mph. If you blinked, you might've missed it.
HE SAID IT
"Seemed like he had pretty good command. Even when you guess right on pitches, when they're located down and away or something, it's still difficult to hit. Plus, they let them have defenders out there, too, so that makes it even harder." -- Flowers, on the team's difficulties facing Straily on Friday
Anibal Sanchez (Alejo) gets the ball in Game 3 of Atlanta's four-game weekend series with the Marlins on Saturday. In the right-hander's lone outing vs. Miami this season on Aug. 14, he allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits in five innings. The Braves will face Marlins southpaw Wei-Yin Chen (Weigh-In) as Players' Weekend continues. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.