ATLANTA -- As Sean Newcomb nears the end of his first full Major League season, it is too early to give up on the possibility he may one day realize his tremendous potential. But as he nears his 50th career start and the Braves find themselves fighting for a postseason
ATLANTA -- As Sean Newcomb nears the end of his first full Major League season, it is too early to give up on the possibility he may one day realize his tremendous potential. But as he nears his 50th career start and the Braves find themselves fighting for a postseason berth, time is running out for him to prove he can be a dependable asset down the stretch.
"He's one of the reasons we're sitting right here where we are," said Braves manager Brian Snitker, whose ballclub is three games ahead of the Phillies in the National League East. "We need him. It's like we talk about how hitters go through it and everybody else. You've just got to keep grinding and fighting. You can't give in to it. You have to make the adjustments."
Given another opportunity to prove himself against one of the Majors' top offenses during Tuesday night's 5-1 loss to the Red Sox at SunTrust Park, Newcomb was once again victimized by the command issues that have haunted him throughout his professional career. He walked four of the last 11 batters faced and exited after issuing Xander Bogaerts' bases-loaded free pass with one out in the fifth.
"It's definitely frustrating when they're not necessarily earning the runs they are getting," Newcomb said. "They had a few weak hits and one solid hit to the track. I kind of did it to myself for the most part. So that is a little more frustrating."
Newcomb surrendered four hits, just two of which were produced with an exit velocity above 86 mph, as he allowed three earned runs over 4 1/3 innings. But there certainly wasn't reason to say he was a victim of tough luck on a night when he recorded a strike with less than half (37 of 78) of his pitches.
When a reporter suggested Newcomb lived on the edge, Snitker quickly replied: "That's an understatement. This is an experienced, really strong ballclub. They're not going to chase. They're going to make you make pitches, and they're not going to help you out. They're too good."
Newcomb has feasted on opportunities against the Mets (1.38 ERA) and Marlins (0.75 ERA). He flashed his potential when he came within a strike of no-hitting a capable Dodgers lineup on July 29. But he has struggled mightily in two starts against the Red Sox, during both of his outings against the Brewers and in a recent matchup against the Rockies.
As these past few weeks have unfolded, Newcomb seems to be miles away from where he was when he posted a 2.71 ERA through this season's first 16 starts. He opened July with a clunker that marked the beginning of the current 11-start stretch within which he has produced a 5.91 ERA and issued 5.43 walks per nine innings.
"That's one thing I do tell myself is that I can do that," Newcomb said of the success he had through the end of June. "It's just a matter of putting it all together and working with the catcher and have everything fall into place. It's been different for me for sure, just trying to buckle down and figure it out a little bit."
An infield single and a walk accounted for the only damage Newcomb incurred before recording a strike with just 15 of the 36 pitches he totaled after the third inning. He escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs threat in the fourth. But he was not nearly as fortunate after the fifth began with a Rick Porcello single and Mookie Betts walk.
Johan Camargo nearly quieted the threat, but J.D. Martinez's one-out liner deflected off his glove as he made a leaping attempt. Newcomb's outing ended moments later when he issued a five-pitch, bases-loaded walk to Bogaerts, who had lined out in the second and doubled in the fourth. The Red Sox added to their fifth-inning output when Steve Pearce greeted Shane Carle with an RBI single and Eduardo Nunez followed with a run-scoring groundout.
"I know I pitched pretty well for a few innings tonight, and then things fell apart," Newcomb said. "I'll go back and look at it and figure out why. I know it's something I can fix easily. It's just a matter of doing it and locking in on it."
Dansby Swanson was relieved when tests showed he did not suffer a concussion after being struck on the left side of his batting helmet by Porcello's 85.5-mph slider in the second inning. Swanson was forced to exit because he said he felt some ringing in his ears. But there is a chance he could return to Atlanta's lineup within the next few days. More >
Kurt Suzuki's second-inning homer that landed in the Braves' bullpen in right-center field was the only run Porcello surrendered over five innings. According to a spray chart from Statcast™, it was also the first charted opposite-field home run Suzuki has hit during a career that dates back to 2007. Earlier in the day, Suzuki was named Atlanta's Roberto Clemente Award nominee.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Kyle Wright struck out two batters and walked one over two scoreless innings in his Major League debut, at least giving Snitker reason to think about the possibility of using him in some high-leverage situations over the remainder of the season. Taken with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 Draft, Atlanta's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline recorded his first strikeout with a wicked breaking ball that led Jackie Bradley Jr. to lose control of his bat, which landed down the first-base line.
"That felt good to execute a pitch and see a positive result," Wright said. "It kind of gave me some confidence to pitch going forward."
Mike Foltynewicz will take the mound when the Braves and Red Sox conclude their three-game series at 12:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Foltynewicz limited Boston to one run over seven innings at Fenway Park on May 27. He produced a 2.09 ERA over six August starts. The Red Sox will turn to reliever Hector Velazquez, who had completed at least three innings in just two of his past 12 appearances, for the spot start.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.