SAN FRANCISCO -- There must be something special about the crisp, cool air in the Bay Area, at least for Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.As he warmed up in the visiting bullpen down the right-field line at AT&T Park on Tuesday night, Foltynewicz noticed his slider had plenty of bite to
SAN FRANCISCO -- There must be something special about the crisp, cool air in the Bay Area, at least for Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.
As he warmed up in the visiting bullpen down the right-field line at AT&T Park on Tuesday night, Foltynewicz noticed his slider had plenty of bite to it, more than it usually carries through the heavy and humid Georgia air. The rest of the night, the Giants were the ones noticing the sweeping effects of his slider.
Foltynewicz flirted with his second shutout of the season, as his complete-game performance propelled the Braves to a 4-1 victory over the Giants and their first series win at AT&T Park since 2011.
"I felt strong the whole game," Foltynewicz said. "It's the playoff race and not too many of us are used to that. Just taking it day by day, pitch by pitch and having a heck of a lot of fun doing it, too."
With the Phillies losing both games of a doubleheader, the Braves also pared their magic number down to 12 as they attempt to win their first division title since 2013. Atlanta owns a 6 1/2-game lead over Philadelphia in the National League East.
Last season, Foltynewicz carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning while facing the Oakland A's on the other side of the bay. As he reflected on Tuesday night's performance, he drew some parallels to last year's gem.
"It was very comparable because I really stayed within myself for most of the game," Foltynewicz said. "Had 97, 98 [mph] in my back pocket and used it when I did for a couple of high strikeouts. But the curveball, changeup and slider were in for first-pitch strikes, got 'em swinging. Then the fastball was effective later on."
Foltynewicz matched his career high by making his 28th start of the year Tuesday night while pushing his innings to a career-high 166. His fastball hovered around 98 mph as he hummed his way through the lineup on 108 pitches, striking out seven and lowering his ERA to 2.66. He picked up his first win in five starts despite tallying just a 1.85 ERA in that span.
"He's got Cy Young material," said Giants leadoff man Gregor Blanco. "He was locating his slider, curveball, changeup and a 98 mile-an-hour fastball."
The Giants didn't scratch across a run until they were down to their final out. Braves manager Brian Snitker came out for a conversation and got a pitcher up in the bullpen but said, "This was one of those nights where he could have stayed out there to pitch 160 pitches and not got tired."
So Foltynewicz finished off his tidy outing while becoming the seventh pitcher to notch his second complete game this year.
"Just going nine innings, period, I realize is pretty special," Foltynewicz said. "One runs, two runs, whatever. … We got the 'W.' It's cool."
It's only been a week since the Braves packed their bags and headed on a long flight from Atlanta to Phoenix following a heartbreaking 9-8 loss to the Red Sox. Since then, the Braves have rattled off five wins in six games while inching closer to the postseason.
"When we got on that plane to come West, it wasn't under the best circumstances," Snitker said. "We'd lost a really tough game. … To come out here and do what we've done, hopefully we can cap it off with a win tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Johan Camargo exited the contest in the third inning with left groin tightness, but his replacement, utility man Charlie Culberson, belted a two-run shot in the fifth inning to lead Atlanta's offense. The blast ended an 0-for-13 skid for Culberson, who also added a seventh-inning single to notch his first multi-hit game since Aug. 23.
"I was going on a hitless September there for a little bit," Culberson said. "Glad to get that one out of the way."
HE SAID IT
"We're scoreboard watching now and I think it's fun. To be in this position, this is where you want to be. You can just tell everyone's obviously up and ready to play. We're getting down to the last couple of weeks or so. It's an exciting time." -- Culberson, on the Braves' shrinking magic number
Anibal Sanchez gets the starting nod in Wednesday's series finale at 3:45 p.m. ET against the Giants, which will be broadcast exclusively on Facebook. Sanchez (6-5, 3.09 ERA) finished with eight strikeouts in his last start, one short of his season high, while mixing speeds to generate a season-best 19 swinging strikes in just 81 pitches. The Braves will face southpaw and impending free agent Derek Holland (7-8, 3.54), who's posted a 2.49 ERA in nine starts after the All-Star break.
Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com based in the Bay Area.