ATLANTA -- Before Ozzie Albies strolled toward the plate for what proved to be one of the most euphoric plate appearances of his young career, he turned to Braves teammate Danny Santana and said, "It's time to go long now."With the SunTrust Park clock approaching 1 a.m. ET, Albies stepped
ATLANTA -- Before Ozzie Albies strolled toward the plate for what proved to be one of the most euphoric plate appearances of his young career, he turned to Braves teammate Danny Santana and said, "It's time to go long now."
With the SunTrust Park clock approaching 1 a.m. ET, Albies stepped into the box and provided the Braves with an extremely satisfying, 5-4, 11-inning win over the Reds, courtesy of his first career walk-off home run.
"It felt amazing," Albies said. "That is one of the most exciting times you can feel when you do that for the team."
Mike Foltynewicz looked both healthy and rusty as he allowed just one run and nearly held the Reds hitless over five innings during his first start back from the disabled list. His exit combined with the lingering effects of this past weekend's series against the Orioles left the Braves to gamble on Lucas Sims, whose rough sixth inning positioned him to be the goat until Albies turned on the one and only pitch delivered by Reds right-handed reliever Dylan Floro.
"[Albies] hasn't seen a pitch yet that he doesn't like, but he's on the attack," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's an aggressive hitter, that's what makes him what he is. He's having a heck of a year."
Per Statcast™, Albies entered Monday having swung at the first pitch 45.6 percent of the time -- fourth-highest percentage among all MLB players with at least 250 plate appearances. So long after the start of Monday's game had been delayed 80 minutes because of rain, it wasn't necessarily surprising to see the 21-year-old second baseman go just below his knees to drill Floro's first-pitch changeup.
"I went up there with one mentality, to hit a home run," said Albies, who has now tallied six of his 17 home runs against first-pitch deliveries.
As the Braves increased their NL East lead to 3 1/2 games, they were reminded of the potential dominance of Foltynewicz, who allowed just one hit -- Scott Schebler's two-out, fifth-inning solo homer -- during his 91-pitch, five-inning start. The right-hander was making his first start since his right triceps tightened during his June 12 outing.
Foltynewicz has posted a 0.96 ERA and limited opponents to a .153 batting average over his past eight starts. His dominant run has positioned him to possibly be at the All-Star Game with Albies, who has received more votes than any other NL second baseman.
Albies got the Braves rolling as he scored Ender Inciarte with a double in Atlanta's two-run first inning and then added another double that led to another run against Reds starter Tyler Mahle in the fifth. Since entering Friday having gone 11-for-72 in June, Albies has gone 12-for-22 and is once again a dynamic cog near the top of Atlanta's lineup.
"Well, he's kind of our go-to guy," Snitker said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Determined effort: Left-handed reliever Jesse Biddle threw 29 pitches over three innings during Friday's 15-inning loss to the Orioles and totaled eight pitches in a scoreless inning on Sunday. The Braves had no desire to use him, but were left with no other choice when this series opener extended to extra innings. Biddle got in trouble when the Reds put two on with none out in the 10th. But after Scooter Gennett surprisingly provided a sac bunt, the rookie reliever escaped unscathed when shortstop Dansby Swanson ranged to his right to record an out on Jose Peraza's two-out grounder.
"[Biddle] has done a great job," Snitker said. "It's been a really good thing to see. You never know who is going to burst onto the scene when they get an opportunity and run with it. He's done a great job."
There certainly wasn't reason to be concerned with Foltynewicz's arm strength as his four-seam fastball touched 99.3 mph and averaged 96 mph in this return start. His high early pitch count was influenced by four walks, the first of which was issued at the conclusion of his 10-pitch, first-inning battle against Joey Votto. Foltynewicz's inability to put hitters away with his slider as frequently as he has in the past led to the Reds fouling off 14 of the 47 four-seamers that he threw. He encountered four three-ball counts, each of which led to a walk.
"The arm was just kind of heavy," Foltynewicz said. "You can't really practice these situations when you're out there with your adrenaline running, but just a couple of times I just couldn't really extend too far … I think that's just 11 days off without getting into a game.
"But adrenaline pushed me through. A little rusty, just some of those pitches weren't even close -- I was just upset with myself. I'm better than that, I can make a better pitch than that, but we'll get there."
After playing 15 innings against the Orioles on Friday, the Braves did not see Julio Teheran or Brandon McCarthy last more than five innings either of the next two days. Consequently, Snitker found himself with a taxed bullpen. Not knowing exactly how Foltynewicz would feel or fare, the team opted to keep Sims because he could provide more length than Evan Phillips, who was optioned back to Gwinnett on Monday, a little more than 24 hours after he'd received his first call to the Majors.
The cautious decision nearly backfired when Snitker opted to use Sims, who quickly squandered a two-run sixth-inning lead. Sims surrendered three straight singles, issued a bases-loaded walk and was fortunate that the only other run tallied against him came courtesy of Adam Duvall's RBI groundout.
"[Sims] was the most rested guy," Snitker said. "I didn't want to get to a couple of guys we pitched. I was hoping somebody would have done that in the ninth inning or eighth inning. Like I said, we had a couple of guys pitch tonight that I didn't really want to use. We were forced to use them. They could have used another day. At that point in time during the game, Lucas was the most rested guy down there, so that's who you've got to go with."
HE SAID IT
"Peter [Moylan] actually called it. It was a low pitch and he almost golfed it. We didn't know if it was going to be long enough, but we were excited to get home. It's one o'clock." -- Foltynewicz, on Albies' home run
"I was just smiling and I knew they were going to hit me with powder and whatever they've got. It was fun." -- Albies, on his reaction to the walk-off celebration
Anibal Sanchez will attempt to get back on track when the Braves host the Reds on Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. ET. Sanchez had posted a 2.10 ERA through six starts before he issued a season-high four walks while allowing the Blue Jays four runs over five innings of last Wednesday's loss in Toronto. Cincinnati will counter with Matt Harvey, who has allowed at least five runs in four of his past five appearances (four starts) against the Braves.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.