PHILADELPHIA -- Provided a chance to add to the splendor of his breakout season and prepare for the biggest start of his young career, Mike Foltynewicz showed why he has the potential to further shine when the lights become even brighter in October.Foltynewicz reached a lofty milestone and quite possibly
PHILADELPHIA -- Provided a chance to add to the splendor of his breakout season and prepare for the biggest start of his young career, Mike Foltynewicz showed why he has the potential to further shine when the lights become even brighter in October.
Foltynewicz reached a lofty milestone and quite possibly garnered some more down-ballot National League Cy Young Award votes while helping the Braves keep pace in their bid for NL Division Series home-field advantage with Friday night's 10-2 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
"I've just seen him take strides forward and have an attitude that, 'I want to be the guy,'" Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He looks driven. The stuff has always been there. I think he's refined it and improved his command. He's just becoming the pitcher we all envision him being."
Freddie Freeman recorded his third four-hit game of the season, and Johan Camargo enhanced the power production few predicted before he became the everyday third baseman near the end of May. But as the Braves were extending the Phillies' losing streak to nine games, the focus was placed on Foltynewicz, who can now set his sights on facing the winner of the NL West race in the NLDS.
With a win on Friday, the Rockies will enter Saturday with a one-game NL West lead over the Dodgers. Colorado and Atlanta have identical records, but the former owns the home-field advantage tiebreaker.
"[Folty] has looked like [an ace] all year," Freeman said. "There aren't a lot of non-competitive pitches from him anymore. The slider always seems to be down in the zone with a chance for the hitter to swing at it. I think that's really helped him take the turn."
Regardless of who or where they play, the Braves will confidently hand the ball to Foltynewicz, who allowed one run and one hit while recording nine strikeouts over five innings against the Phillies. He struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced and remained perfect until he hit Cesar Hernandez, who scored on Odubel Herrera's double in the fourth.
This was a fitting finish to a regular season few could have predicted for Foltynewicz, who had produced a 4.81 ERA over the 65 combined starts made over the previous three years. He earned his first All-Star selection in July and currently possesses the NL's fifth-best ERA (2.85). Foltynewicz totaled 202 strikeouts, becoming just the sixth different pitcher of the Atlanta era (since 1966) to reach the 200-strikeout milestone. The others to reach this mark were John Smoltz (1992, '93, '96, '97 and 2006), Phil Niekro (1977-79), Greg Maddux (1998), Kevin Millwood (1999) and Javier Vazquez (2009).
"It's been kind of a blur," Foltynewicz said. "A lot of guys say it's pretty hard to get there. It's a lot of hard work and it's not something you think a lot about during the season. It just kind of comes along, but it's a pretty cool accomplishment."
Foltynewicz also limited opponents to a .195 batting average, bettering the .196 average teammate Julio Teheran surrendered. Within the past 110 years, the only other teams to have at least two qualified pitchers allow a batting average below .200 were the 1968 Indians (Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert and Luis Tiant), 1986 Astros (Mike Scott and Nolan Ryan) and 2015 Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke).
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff notched seven strikeouts through the first three innings, including six straight after the second inning began with a Camargo single and Ozzie Albies double. But after Camargo gave the Braves a 1-0 lead with a one-out homer in the fourth and Albies followed with a single, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler opted to lift his starter after just 56 pitches and call upon the first of the seven relievers he used.
The Braves took advantage at the expense of Edubray Ramos, who walked Tyler Flowers and uncorked a wild pitch before allowing Charlie Culberson's two-run single. Ronald Acuna Jr. capped the four-run frame with a two-out RBI single.
Possibly refreshed after simply pinch-hitting in Thursday's loss to the Mets, Freeman notched three doubles in a game for the second time in his career. His other three-double game was on April 26.
Freeman squandered his chance for the NL MVP Award when he endured a three-week skid that ran through the early portion of this month. But he has hit .377 with a .996 OPS over his past 19 games dating back to Sept. 8.
This has been a gratifying year for Freeman, who lived through the entirety of the painful rebuild Atlanta experienced over the past three years. This year's team is the first MLB team since the 1991 Braves to record a 90-win season immediately after enduring three consecutive 90-loss seasons.
"It's definitely pretty remarkable, definitely when nobody expected this," Freeman said. "We just didn't know what the young guys would do. They have obviously made huge impacts this year. It's been incredible to see these guys go throughout the year. Every time we got knocked down, we came right back. To have 90 wins after the last couple years is pretty nice.
NO REASON TO PANIC
With the Braves leading, 10-1, in the ninth, Snitker stuck with his plan to use closer Arodys Vizcaino, who will make his final regular-season appearance on Sunday. Vizcaino surrendered a solo homer to Rhys Hoskins and exited with the bases loaded and two outs.
Snitker chalked this up to another instance where a closer seems to struggle when placed in a lopsided contest. He was simply happy the veteran closer exited without experiencing any problems with his right shoulder. Vizcaino missed nearly three months before returning from the disabled list two weeks ago.
"As long as Vizzy is feeling good, then that's all I care about," Snitker said. "If he's not feeling stiff and his shoulder is good, I'm good. We've seen when the situation is hairy, he'll lock it in."
Anibal Sanchez will take the mound when the Braves and Phillies resume their three-game series Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET at Citizens Bank Park. Sanchez will be making his final tuneup before starting either Game 2 or 3 of the NLDS. Philadelphia will counter will Aaron Nola, who has a 2.30 ERA in 11 career starts against the Braves.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.