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Folty falls to Dodgers, extending July slump

All-Star allows 2-run hit to Kershaw and 2 solo HRs over 5 innings
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- July hasn't been Mike Foltynewicz's month, and Friday night's 4-1 loss to the Dodgers at SunTrust Park can corroborate.

Prior to the start of the month, Foltynewicz was having an All-Star year. Through 16 starts, he allowed two earned runs or fewer in all but one. Notching a 2.02 ERA, Foltynewicz was cruising into the second half of the season, with opponents batting .186 against arguably the most consistent Braves starter.

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ATLANTA -- July hasn't been Mike Foltynewicz's month, and Friday night's 4-1 loss to the Dodgers at SunTrust Park can corroborate.

Prior to the start of the month, Foltynewicz was having an All-Star year. Through 16 starts, he allowed two earned runs or fewer in all but one. Notching a 2.02 ERA, Foltynewicz was cruising into the second half of the season, with opponents batting .186 against arguably the most consistent Braves starter.

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But there has been a slip. In his last three starts prior to Friday, Foltynewicz had given up 14 runs with a 6.87 ERA through 18 1/3 innings. That's one more run that he allowed through nine starts throughout all of May and June.

"It just seems like my last pitch or last few innings I can't finish it," Foltynewicz said. "I'm not being consistent this whole July, so I need to pick it up here in August and continue playing through October."

For the third time in his past five starts, Foltynewicz gave up two home runs. After giving up a pair of homers in consecutive starts against the Brewers on July 6 and the Blue Jays on July 11, he allowed solo shots to the Dodgers' Alex Verdugo and Yasmani Grandal. The Braves are now 3-5 when Foltynewicz gives up one home run or more in a start.

Video: LAD@ATL: Grandal clubs 17th homer of the year

After taking the lead in the second inning with an RBI groundout from Ender Inciarte driving in Kurt Suzuki from third, Verdugo answered in the third, launching a home run to dead center field.

Foltynewicz gave up another leadoff home run in the fourth, this time from Grandal. The catcher's home run kick-started a three-run inning for the Dodgers, with Clayton Kershaw driving in two more runs with a hard ground ball down the left-field line.

Another recent thorn in Foltynewicz's side has been command. Out of 101 pitches he threw on Friday, just 58 were strikes. Across the diamond, Kershaw threw 101 pitches with 71 for strikes and got through 7 2/3 innings. Foltynewicz walked three, and the bullpen did little to help keep the Dodgers off base, with the Braves issuing seven walks on the night -- three to the opposing pitcher.

"It just seems like it's one pitch where you're close to finishing the inning with two strikes and two outs and then they just get that one dagger," Foltynewicz said. "I kind of get myself in trouble there with some two-strike hits and a few walks."

And though Foltynewicz and the bullpen seemed to struggle a little with command, the 'pen had one of its best showings in recent weeks.

Despite the number of walks, the bullpen was able to get through four scoreless innings of work, capped off by A.J. Minter's gem of a ninth inning in which he struck out the side to give the Braves a fighting chance, but the offense was unable to deliver a late-inning rally.

Video: LAD@ATL: Minter fans Grandal to strike out the side

"[The bullpen] kept the game right there," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We have to get back to playing ahead. The game flows better, obviously. We aren't getting guys on or getting the big hits."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The moment Folty wants back: Foltynewicz said after the game that he was fine giving up the home runs in the third and fourth innings. He would take those and the 2-1 score that came with them. The moment that hurt him the most came after the home runs, when Kershaw drove in two runs in the fourth with a single down the left-field line.

Video: LAD@ATL: Kershaw plates two with a knock in the 4th

"That's the one that really upsets me," Foltynewicz said. "I'll take those two home runs on those two pitches, whatever, but that one really stings a little bit."

VENTERS MAKES FIRST APPEARANCE
For the first time since the 2012 National League Wild Card Game, Jonny Venters tossed a scoreless inning in a Braves uniform. Venters made his first relief appearance for the Braves after being traded late Thursday night. He threw one inning, walking one and inducing a flyout and two groundouts.

Video: LAD@ATL: Venters gets force out to end the frame

"It felt good to get out there and get some outs," Venters said. "It felt good to be home, and to put that uniform on again was definitely a special feeling for me."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Dansby Swanson flashed some major skills, and possibly saved a few runs, at shortstop on Friday night after taking Thursday off. With runners on second and first with one out, Verdugo hit a sharp ground ball up the middle. Sliding to his left, Swanson stopped the ball from slipping by him into shallow center field, tossing the ball to Ozzie Albies at second who turned the double play to keep anymore Dodgers' damage from being done.

Video: LAD@ATL: Swanson makes a diving play to start DP

HE SAID IT
"I have to be better, maybe a little more cautious with some pitches or a little more focused… I'm trying the hardest I ever have, it's just sometimes you're on that side of the bad luck and that happens." -- Foltynewicz

UP NEXT
Max Fried will make his return to the Major League mound for the third game against the Dodgers at SunTrust Park on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Fried was placed on the 10-day disabled list on July 6 with a blister on his left middle finger. Fried was sent on rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett, where he went 6 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 10 in his start on Monday. The Dodgers will counter with former Braves starter Alex Wood.

Tori McElhaney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.

Atlanta Braves, Mike Foltynewicz, A.J. Minter, Jonny Venters