CINCINNATI -- As the first two months of this season have evolved, Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz has silenced those doubters who have spent the past two years wondering if he could ever harness his emotions and become mentally strong enough to maximize the value of his tremendous physical talents.Showing no
CINCINNATI -- As the first two months of this season have evolved, Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz has silenced those doubters who have spent the past two years wondering if he could ever harness his emotions and become mentally strong enough to maximize the value of his tremendous physical talents.
Showing no sign of any negative lingering effects of the disappointing start experienced last weekend in San Francisco, Foltynewicz took another step toward legitimizing himself as a frontline starter, as he matched a career-best 10 strikeouts and surrendered just two hits over seven scoreless innings during Friday night's 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
"He was very good," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "That was his best [start] so far. He was very aggressive. It's a shame we couldn't get him a win."
Braves closer Jim Johnson allowed a pair of ninth-inning runs and Devin Mesoraco's walk-off home run against Jose Ramirez squandered this latest gem produced by Foltynewicz, who has gone winless in each of the last three starts in which he has allowed two runs or fewer and completed at least seven innings.
"They're a great hitting team and kind of aggressive at the same time," Foltynewicz said. "First-pitch strikes were key tonight. I put them in some great locations and they were behind and had to battle from there."
Harnessing that innate tendency to want to frequently overpower opposing hitters, Foltynewicz found a groove as he dialed down his four-seam fastball to the lower 90s early in the count. Improved command of his heater enabled him to consistently get ahead and prove more efficient with both his slider and changeup.
Foltynewicz concluded six of his strikeouts with a fastball, two more with his slider and the other two with the changeup. His ability to confidently utilize any of his four pitches throughout the night kept the potent Reds lineup off-balance. He followed a slider to Billy Hamilton in the third inning with a 96.5 heater that led the center fielder to bail as the ball painted the inside corner for a called third strike.
"I think the variable of the [slider] being more effective is the fastball command," Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. "The more he can establish the fastball, effectively throw inside and get strikes with it early, that opens up everything."
Foltynewicz has allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his 10 starts. His respectable 3.72 ERA was tarnished when he allowed the Cardinals seven earned runs in four innings on May 5 and then again last weekend when the Giants tagged him for five earned runs in another four-inning stint. He bounced back from the St. Louis start with six strong innings against the Marlins and then showed his resolve yet again during this rebound effort against the Reds.
This has certainly been an encouraging development for a young pitcher, who spent the past two seasons consistently allowing adversity to negatively affect him on both a pitch-to-pitch and start-to-start basis.
"We're getting there," Foltynewicz said with a confident smile.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.