ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz might not have won the battle, but the Braves' right-hander took another positive step in the war he is waging this year against those emotional reactions that have adversely affected him in the past.
As Foltynewicz completed seven strong innings during Tuesday night's 3-1 loss to the Nationals at SunTrust Park, he kept himself composed during similar situations that previously disrupted his psyche and served as reminders that he possesses the physical talents and vast arsenal necessary to develop into a legitimate frontline starting pitcher.
"Folty was good," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I thought he hung in there really well, and you've got to feel he took a good step in the right direction."
Instead of allowing adversity to linger like he often did while compiling a 4.31 ERA over 22 starts last year, Foltynewicz remained focused throughout his seven-inning effort that was only tarnished by the two runs surrendered during the Nationals' decisive fifth. The 25-year-old right-hander exited that rough frame and then proceeded to complete his 106-pitch effort by retiring each of the final seven batters faced.
"I think last year it would have been five innings right there and he'd have been out of the game," Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "It's a credit to Snit to let him battle through that and give himself a chance to build his confidence right there. He pitched great. It was just one inning and he gave up two runs. You really can't argue with that performance. He gave us a chance to win."
Foltynewicz provided some early indication this night might evolve in a positive manner. After Dansby Swanson made a throwing error in the first inning, the Braves' hurler responded by getting Bryce Harper to look at a called third strike. He then pitched around an opposite-field leadoff double Harper produced with a tomahawk swing in the fourth inning.
"I think last year a few times there were times when he'd think he threw a strike and it got called a ball and you could see him get mad," Snitker said. "He did that tonight and you would think, 'Oh no, is he going to hang one because he's mad?' Last year, he did and tonight he didn't. I think he knows it's a work in progress to keep his emotions in check."
Foltynewicz showed improvement with his changeup, but he certainly wishes he hadn't hung the one that Matt Wieters belted to right for a leadoff double in the fourth inning. Wilmer Difo followed with an RBI single, then scored when Adam Eaton reached out to slap a changeup on the outside corner to center for another single that gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead.
"I think a lot of my pitches that inning were up, especially with the leadoff changeup just floating it right there," Foltynewicz said. "I think I got a little fast and tried to speed things up and not slow things down like I have been. But that was just one hiccup there, and I'm glad I escaped giving up just two runs."