BOSTON -- Nearing the end of a rough road trip and staring at the task of facing four of the game's top starting pitchers within a span of six days, the Braves got exactly what they needed from Tyler Flowers and Mike Foltynewicz.Flowers extended his mastery of his former batterymate
BOSTON -- Nearing the end of a rough road trip and staring at the task of facing four of the game's top starting pitchers within a span of six days, the Braves got exactly what they needed from Tyler Flowers and Mike Foltynewicz.
Flowers extended his mastery of his former batterymate Chris Sale and Foltynewicz delivered his longest start of the season as the Braves snapped a three-game losing streak and returned to Atlanta riding the momentum of Sunday afternoon's 7-1 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
"It went from being a really you-know-what road trip to just a not-very-good one," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Though the excitement was tempered as the Braves waited to hear the severity of the left knee injury Ronald Acuna Jr. sustained in the seventh inning, there was no doubt they were feeling satisfied about the fact they had avoided a sweep in Boston and added a second victory to this six-game road trip that began in Philadelphia.
The Braves fell out of first place with Saturday's loss and then moved back to the top of the National League East standings -- a half-game ahead of the Phillies -- with Sunday's win. As they prepare to face Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg within the next five days, they can only hope to encounter the same success achieved against Sale, who allowed six earned runs and five hits over 4 1/3 innings in this series finale.
"We were just able to take advantage of some mistakes and piece them together," Flowers said. "A lot of the trip, we haven't been able to piece hits together. So it was nice to be able to do that and get something going early for us."
Flowers provided the early blow when he barreled an 0-2 fastball and watched it clear the Green Monster for a three-run home run in the second inning. He is now 3-for-4 with two homers and a double in four career at-bats against Sale.
"I've always thought he was an underrated hitter," Sale said. "He's a great ballplayer. Obviously respect him. He's probably caught more of my games than anybody else. He's seen it quite a few times. You've got to be better there, though. Fastball right down the middle; not too many times you're going to win that battle."
Flowers has indeed been behind the plate far more frequently than any other catcher with Sale on the mound. But he doesn't necessarily view this as an advantage he has when facing his former White Sox teammate.
"I always find those more difficult, because it's easy to kind of call the game for him as you're trying to hit off him," Flowers said. "That can get you in trouble real quick too. I don't think there is any advantage. I just think he's happened to make some mistakes against me and I've been fortunate to hit the barrel with it."
By the time Freddie Freeman chased Sale with a two-run double in the fifth, Foltynewicz had found a groove. The right-hander carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and ended up allowing just one run over seven innings. He had completed as many as six innings just three times this year. But with a doubleheader looming on Monday and the bullpen having tallied five innings on Saturday, this was a good time for him to deliver one of his best starts.
"He was real efficient with his pitches and stayed on the attack," Snitker said. "I just loved how he stayed after it. He was throwing a lot of strikes. His stuff was really good today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Patience is a virtue: Dansby Swanson opened the fifth with a walk and scored when Charlie Culberson's opposite-field single slipped under right fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.'s glove. But the inning's key walk was drawn by Acuna, who fell behind with a 1-2 count and was on the brink of his third strikeout of the day before fouling off a couple of full-count pitches. This set the stage for Freeman, who drilled a first-pitch slider off the right-center-field wall for a two-run double that gave the Braves a 6-0 lead.
"Anytime you get runs off him it's big, because he's one of those guys we talk about being one of the best in the game," Snitker said. "We had big at-bats against him. That was big."
Sale has allowed at least six earned runs five times since the start of the 2016 season. Two of those occurrences have come in his only two career starts against the Braves.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Foltynewicz's no-hit bid ended when he surrendered a one-out double in the sixth to Andrew Benintendi, who scored on Mitch Moreland's triple. The inning could have been filled with more damage had Ozzie Albies not defied his vertically-challenged limitations with a leaping grab of a Xander Bogaerts liner that could have easily given the Red Sox three consecutive one-out extra-base hits in the inning.
"I told him that was probably the play of the day or save of the day," Foltynewicz said. "At no point did I think he was going to get that. He just jumped and that ball was like a magnet into his glove. I jumped with him there too. That was a huge play. You never know what could have happened after that."
HE SAID IT
"Oh, I'm glad that he was able to walk off the field. It's tough, I mean, you saw it. He was just laying there. I was just talking to one of the coaches about the talent they have on the field, and that's a good baseball team and I know people feel that they're close to being great. With the talent they have on a daily basis, they're really good. He's part of it. To see him down right there, I was like, 'Oh my God'. It can change in one play in this game. Sometimes we take things for granted. I'm glad he was able to walk off the field and hopefully it's nothing serious."
-- Red Sox manager Alex Cora, on Acuna
The Braves will return to Atlanta late Sunday night and return to SunTrust Park approximately 12 hours later to prepare for Monday's doubleheader against the Mets. Max Fried will come up from Triple-A Gwinnett to make his first start of the season. He'll match up against Jacob deGrom in the first game, which is scheduled to start at 1:10 p.m. ET. Brandon McCarthy will take the mound when the second game begins at 7:10 p.m. ET.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.