Early hiccup vs. Posey costs Foltynewicz
Braves rookie buckles down in second inning to record quality start
SAN FRANCISCO -- Mike Foltynewicz appeared to be an unfinished product when he was forced to begin this season with Triple-A Gwinnett. But as he spent the past month in Atlanta's rotation, the hard-throwing hurler showed why some believe he might soon establish himself as a legitimate frontline starter at the Major League level.
Foltynewicz produced his latest impressive start during Friday night's 4-2 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park. The Braves rookie cruised through the middle innings and flirted with a few triple-digit radar readings near the conclusion of his 94-pitch effort. But limited offensive support made him pay for the fastball that Buster Posey drove over the left-center-field wall for a two-run homer in the first inning.
"The first inning, I just wasn't really comfortable for some reason," Foltynewicz said. "My arm was a little stiff. I think I might have sat a little too long before the game started. But other than that, it was just one mistake and one bad pitch. I wish I could have it back, but it's baseball."
Posey's line-drive shot accounted for the only runs Foltynewicz allowed while surrendering five hits and notching a career-high eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. As the 23-year-old hurler has worked into the seventh inning in three of his past four starts, he has distanced himself from the command issues that plagued him during Spring Training and a few of the April starts he completed for Gwinnett.
"Working with [pitching coach] Roger McDowell, everything is coming along pretty well," Foltynewicz said. "I'm keeping the walks down and just going out there and attacking guys. That's what I've been doing the past couple starts and it's working well for me."
Foltynewicz's powerful right arm remained strong throughout his outing against the Giants. The final four fastballs he threw registered between 97 and 99 mph. He notched three strikeouts during the seventh inning, two of which were completed with a curveball that proved to be too nasty for veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski to keep in front of him. Consequently, Brandon Belt and Gregor Blanco both reached safely via wild pitches.
After the Giants loaded the bases against Foltynewicz with those two wild strikeouts and a single in the seventh, Luis Avilan killed the threat by inducing a Nori Aoki groundout.
"That stuff happens," Foltynewicz said. "I'm not going to go out the next outing and not throw a curveball in the dirt just because that happened. I have all the trust in the world with A.J. That's tough, blocking balls like that."
Because his time at Double-A and Triple-A came while playing for an American League organization (the Astros), Foltynewicz never recorded a professional plate appearance until a month ago, when he made his season debut May 1 against the Reds. The offensive inexperience showed again Friday, when he was unable to get a sacrifice bunt down in the third inning.
The botched bunt attempt incensed Foltynewicz and fueled him over the next few innings. After allowing two straight singles to begin the second inning, he retired the next 11 batters he faced. The only other hit he surrendered the rest of the way was Matt Duffy's two-out single in the seventh.
"When you give a two-run homer in the first inning to one of the best hitters in the game and then don't give up anything after that, it's pretty clutch," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said.