OAKLAND -- Mike Foltynewicz wasn’t one to hide his emotion. He’d yell in frustration. He’d throw the rosin bag in disgust. He’d shake his arms and head in disappointment. If Foltynewicz didn’t execute a pitch as desired, no one in attendance needed to guess how he was feeling.
By evening’s end, however, Foltynewicz had a night worth at least partially enjoying. With the help of some excellent defense on Friday night, he pitched six innings of one-run ball in the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the A's -- the right-hander's first quality start in a month.
“There’s gonna be ups and downs when you’re a starting pitcher or an everyday player,” said manager Chris Woodward after Starling Marte’s three-run home run sank the Rangers in the 11th. “For him to right the ship is pretty good.”
While Foltynewicz ended up with a fine final line, his discontentment on the mound was understandable.
The right-hander was not as crisp or as sharp as he would’ve desired. He walked three batters and had as many strikeouts as hit batters (two). He threw 52 strikes to 41 balls, while his called strike and whiff rate of 18.3 percent was his second-lowest of the year. Foltynewicz was especially critical of his curveball, calling it “horrible.”
Still, Foltynewicz managed to be, in his own words, “effectively wild" enough to put up his fourth quality start in four tries against the A’s. Foltynewicz has recorded his best outings of the season against Oakland, allowing eight runs across 25 1/3 innings (2.84 ERA) with 19 strikeouts to four walks. Against everyone else, however, Foltynewicz has a 6.58 ERA, which would be far and away the league’s worst figure.
“If I knew, I would try to rectify it,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin regarding his club's particular struggles against the veteran hurler. “He’s got good stuff. He’s been a winner before. He’s had good years. You look at his overall ERA and it would suggest maybe we score a few more runs on him. But he’s pitched well every time we’ve seen him.”
Most of Foltynewicz’s outs, then, had to come by way of balls in play. Luckily for him, Texas’ defense was airtight, and no individual shined as bright as the rookie making his second career start.
Yonny Hernandez put on a defensive masterclass at second base, making several difficult plays look routine.
“Fresh out the gate, to be able to make those types of plays in those situations and just to be ready, it’s pretty spectacular,” Foltynewicz said. “He made two great plays today. If he didn’t stop those, things could’ve gotten ugly. Hats off to Yonny, man.”
Hernandez’s defensive exploits began in the bottom of the fourth inning, when Foltynewicz found himself in a bases-loaded, no-out jam. Designated hitter Mitch Moreland smoked a 100.6 mph line drive at Hernandez that took a tough short hop. Hernandez fielded it easily and threw it to second, kicking off a double play that scored Oakland its only run off Foltynewicz.
Two innings later, Hernandez started another double play with slick glovework, this one helping Foltynewicz get through the sixth. With Marte on first base, Hernandez charged Matt Olson’s slow grounder, fielded it and fired to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who made the turn for another twin killing.
If the rookie's defensive exhibition wasn’t enough, he also recorded his first Major League hit off A's starter Chris Bassitt, a slowly hit dribbler up the middle that found the outfield grass.
“He’s been phenomenal in only two days,” Woodward said. “He’s brought a lot of energy. Plays with a lot of attitude. He’s a winning player.”
Hernandez was one of a handful of Rangers who also dazzled on defense throughout the night.
In the bottom of the 10th, center fielder DJ Peters threw a perfect one-hopper from center field to nab Josh Harrison at third base on his tag attempt and send the game to the 11th inning. Left fielder Jason Martin made a leaping catch to rob Matt Chapman of extra bases, while third baseman Brock Holt fielded a tricky in-between hopper off the bat of Mark Canha to record a groundout.
It was an all-around defensive showcase that Foltynewicz would love to have behind him the next time he toes the slab as he attempts to string together more quality outings down the stretch.
This season hasn’t gone as planned for Foltynewicz by any stretch of the imagination. He still leads the Majors in home runs allowed (31), and he’s on pace for the worst ERA (5.77) and FIP (6.24) he’s ever had in a full season (not including 2020, when he only appeared in one game for Atlanta). But with his latest performance, he's now posted two consecutive solid outings.
“It builds your confidence up every time you have outings like these,” Foltynewicz said.