Mike Foltynewicz sure knows how to ruin a great party.
The Braves were back home Friday night. They had won five consecutive to close a road trip. They were in first place. It was the home debut for Ronald Acuna. It was the first game as a Brave for Jose Bautista. Fans were given free Ozzie Calrissian (Albies) bobblehead dolls, which, I’m quite certain, are shorter than all other bobblehead dolls but they lead toyland in home runs and bench-pressing pickup trucks.
There was such a demand for tickets Friday that the Braves sold standing room, leading to an announced record SunTrust Park crowd of 41,807. They were rewarded in the first inning with a double by little Calrissian and a Freddie Freeman home run.
The party was on. Then this happened in San Francisco’s second inning: 10 batters. Six runs. Five hits, including a two-run triple, a double and Foltynewicz’s second walk in as many innings.
Foltynewicz, voted the Braves’ starting pitcher most likely to sometimes turn right on a NASCAR track, imploded.
He does this. He’s maddening. He’s 26 years old. When he arrived from Houston in a 2015 trade for catcher Evan Gattis, everybody said, “He’s got great stuff.” And he does. He really does.
But sometimes the stuff isn’t over the plate. Sometimes the stuff is over way too much of the plate. Sometimes the stuff that flies out of his hand leads to all sorts of weird stuff between his ears. Foltynewicz just loses it, as he did Friday.
“If emotions get the best of me, man, I’m a fricking pitcher, I’m out there trying to win a game,” he said later. “If emotions get the best of me, so be it.”
Actually, that’s not how it’s supposed to work. Emotions are not supposed to get the best of a starting pitcher. If Foltynewicz needs to be reminded of this, he should ask some of the pitching greats who proceeded him in Atlanta on the subject. I’m sure they would be happy to tutor him.
The Braves lost to the Giants 9-4. They lost because their starting pitcher, he of the great stuff, couldn’t throw a slider and couldn’t hold things together again. When a pitcher is in his fifth season he should be past this kind of thing. The fact that Foltynewicz came back to throw three shutout innings before leaving in the fifth was mere window dressing.
He hasn’t had an awful season. His ERA entering the game was quite good (2.53). But there are too many nights like this.
“He just had a hard time making pitches,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Kind of just got out of control there and couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
Foltynewicz also twice struck out while trying to bunt in the second and fourth innings. He was booed both times by fans. He showed his disgust with a hand motion.
Bautista, called up earlier in the day from Gwinnett, doubled in his first at-bat as a Brave and played adequately at third base. Albies singled and scored. Acuna had a quiet day, even as fans bought up his replica jersey at concessions.
The Braves scored four runs, which often is enough to win a game. But on a night that should’ve been a party, it wasn’t nearly enough.
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