ST. LOUIS -- Time will tell if Mike Foltynewicz is truly back and ready to reintroduce himself to the consistent success he tasted during last year’s All-Star campaign. But it’s safe to say he’s miles away from where he was a little more than a week ago, when he exited
ST. LOUIS -- Time will tell if Mike Foltynewicz is truly back and ready to reintroduce himself to the consistent success he tasted during last year’s All-Star campaign. But it’s safe to say he’s miles away from where he was a little more than a week ago, when he exited a start against the Cardinals knowing he had only one more opportunity to stay in Atlanta’s rotation.
“I had to do it eventually,” Foltynewicz said. “Things were going to start happening. I felt it, and I’m sure everybody else felt it.”
Foltynewicz radiated relief and satisfaction after helping the Braves claim a 5-2 win over the Cardinals on Friday night at Busch Stadium. He allowed one unearned run over six-plus innings and, more importantly, provided indication he’s ready to again be an asset in a talented young rotation that could use a veteran anchor.
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“It looked like the old Folty,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I told him, 'You’re getting back to where you were. That’s good to see.' That can be a huge element in our team to get him back like that.”
Freddie Freeman has produced a 1.223 OPS and tallied six of his 13 homers as the Braves have won 11 of their past 14 games. The veteran first baseman’s sixth-inning solo shot off Miles Mikolas followed the first of two home runs by Dansby Swanson against sliders. Swanson’s second career multi-homer performance gives him 10 homers in 52 games.
But the postgame focus understandably remained on the perseverance of Foltynewicz, who created some encouragement Sunday against the Brewers, then truly made a strong impression as he recorded a season-high seven strikeouts against a Cardinals team that tagged him for eight earned runs over 4 2/3 innings on May 14.
“That was great, that was Folty from last year,” Freeman said. “He was [throwing his fastball] 96, 97 [mph]. His slider was tight. He was pounding the zone. That’s going to be huge for us going forward.”
Foltynewicz’s four-seam fastball averaged a season-high 95.5 mph, and his two-seamer averaged a season-high 96.2 mph. More importantly, he finished six of his seven strikeouts with a breaking ball.
"His velocity was up and his command was better,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “He had good velocity, maintained it. To his credit, he made a lot of quality pitches, and that made his slider a little more effective. And he was able to execute with his heater."
Opponents went 10-for-31 with four homers against the slider when Foltynewicz produced an 8.02 ERA in his first four starts after beginning the season on the injured list. They have gone 3-for-15 with one extra-base hit against it in his last two starts.
Confident the right elbow bone spur won’t deter him and strengthened by a mechanical adjustment that moved his hands back up and out in front of his chest, Foltynewicz is looking more like the guy who routinely pumped 96 mph heaters and limited opponents to a .111 batting average against his slider last year.
“You always have some doubts, especially with the way things were going,” Foltynewicz said. “But I was really pushing and really battling to get to where I am now.”
Foltynewicz’s renewed confidence was on display after Kolten Wong reached to begin the bottom of the third when Austin Riley dropped a fly ball in left-center field. Harrison Bader followed with a triple that Ronald Acuna Jr. misplayed in center field. The Foltynewicz of yesteryear would have likely crumbled while letting his emotions get the best of him.
But the right-hander limited the damage to one unearned run after Paul Goldschmidt’s infield single put two on with two outs. That set the stage for Paul DeJong, who was 3-for-7 with a double and single against Foltynewicz before a long flyout in the first.
DeJong looked at a slider out of the zone, fouled off a changeup and a curveball and then looked at an 84.8 mph breaking ball on the inside corner.
Told the third strike against DeJong registered as a slider, Foltynewicz said, “I get a little excited when I throw the curve, especially against a guy that owned me a little over the past few years.”
Foltynewicz has reason to be excited about what he has done over his past two starts. If he can extend the success achieved in his latest outing, the Braves will have reason to feel even better about a rotation that has posted a 1.61 ERA over the past 10 games.
“His confidence and rhythm is getting back to where it was before,” Swanson said. “We’re definitely happy to see that.”
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.