ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz hasn't yet had the extended success necessary to earn being called a frontline starter. But after dominating the Nationals in his first career shutout in the Braves' 4-0 win Friday night at SunTrust Park, Foltynewicz has offered more proof that he is at his best when
ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz hasn't yet had the extended success necessary to earn being called a frontline starter. But after dominating the Nationals in his first career shutout in the Braves' 4-0 win Friday night at SunTrust Park, Foltynewicz has offered more proof that he is at his best when facing the best.
Foltynewicz's stuff was electric in the best start of his young career, as he retired 26 of the final 28 batters and allowed just two hits and a walk. He recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts and was hitting 99 mph with his fastball in the ninth. He became the seventh pitcher in Atlanta history (since 1966) to throw a two-hitter or better and record double-digit strikeouts. The most recent had been Greg Maddux against the Brewers on May 2, 2001.
Dansby Swanson's three-run homer off Stephen Strasburg to cap a four-run seventh was more run support than he would need.
"All my pitches were really working tonight," Foltynewicz said. "The slider and curveball were there. The fastball up in the zone was there, too, to get some swings and misses. It was one of those games where you're in a groove and you just kind of go with the flow."
The 26-year-old right-hander concluded his 106-pitch gem in fittingly impressive fashion. After missing high with a 98.7-mph fastball to Bryce Harper, he came back and got the Nationals slugger to flail at a slider, sealing the first complete game of his career.
"He might have been better tonight than from what I remember in Oakland," Braves manager Brian Snitker said, referring to the no-hitter Foltynewicz lost in the ninth inning against the A's last season.
Courtesy of Sean Newcomb's strong start of Thursday and Foltynewicz's outing, the Braves have won the first two games of this series to reclaim first place in the National League East. They have won five of eight this year against the Nationals, who are now 1 1/2 games back in the division race.
"The magnitude of the game doesn't change what we're trying to do and what we're trying to accomplish," Swanson said. "We're going about our process and trust that it will lead to good results."
Foltynewicz has a 2.22 ERA through 12 starts this season, and a 0.56 ERA in the five starts he's made since allowing a season-high six runs against the Giants on May 4. In the past six days, he has been dominant in matchups against Red Sox ace Chris Sale and Strasburg, beating both. In the four games in which he has matched up against Sale, Strasburg or Max Scherzer this year, Foltynewicz has produced a 1.37 ERA and recorded 29 strikeouts over 26 1/3 innings.
"That's a good trait," Snitker said. "That's good to see he can do that and match those guys, because that's the cream of the crop in our game. We knew going in tonight this was going to be a rough ride. That was great that Folty gave us an opportunity to eventually pull something out."
After Nick Markakis made a great diving catch to begin the game, Harper lined a 99-mph fastball to right field for a single. That was the last Nationals baserunner until Juan Soto walked in the eighth. Their next hit didn't come until Trea Turner snuck a 0-2 slider through the left side of the infield with two outs in the ninth.
"When I got two strikes on Turner and Harper [in the ninth], I got goosebumps," Foltynewicz said. "The fans were electric out there. It made me that much more confident to get through that ninth inning."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Necessary comfort: Strasburg traded zeros with Foltynewicz into the seventh, but Markakis singled to lead off the inning, moved to third on Kurt Suzuki's single, and scored the 1,000th run of his career when former teammate Matt Adams fumbled Johan Camargo's soft grounder. Swanson then provided more cushion when he drove a 1-2 curveball over the left-field wall for a three-run homer.
"You just want to battle," Swanson said. "When it got to two strikes, you just want to battle and put the ball in play. Hopefully, good things happen. Luckily, I just caught it in the right spot."
Strasburg had gone 33 2/3 innings without giving up a homer in Atlanta before Swanson's blast. His streak stretched back to when Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Freddie Freeman and Thomas La Stella each took him deep on Aug. 8, 2014.
Foltynewicz recorded a called strike with six of his 11 curveballs and totaled 23 called strikes -- matching the third-highest total of his career. He has now matched or exceeded that total in each of his past four starts.
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The defensive play of the night belonged to Markakis, who dove toward the right-field corner to rob Turner of an extra-base hit to begin the game.
"I think that catch really got me going and got me focused," Foltynewicz said. "It got me locked in. After that, we just attacked them."
HE SAID IT
"Not to that level. He had everything working tonight. He was committed to both sides of the plate. He had a feel for all his pitches." -- Adams, when asked if he'd ever seen Foltynewicz as good as he was Friday
"I felt a little more confident and in command of my stuff than I did in Oakland. I knew I had a lower pitch count. So I could be more aggressive and attack the zone." -- Foltynewicz, on how this start compared to last year's near no-hitter
Camargo will attempt to extend his success against Giovany Gonzalez when the Braves and Nationals resume their four-game series Saturday at 4:10 p.m. ET at SunTrust Park. Camargo has six hits, including a pair of doubles, in 11 career at-bats against Gonzalez, who has posted a 5.23 ERA over his past 17 starts against Atlanta. The Braves will start Brandon McCarthy, who has a 2.00 ERA over four career starts against Washington.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.