The Mike Foltynewicz who held the St. Louis Cardinals to three hits and no walks over seven scoreless innings in Game 2 was nowhere to be found in Game 5.
The Braves’ best pitcher for the past month lasted only 23 pitches and recorded only one out in the deciding game of the National League Division Series on Wednesday at SunTrust Park. And that lone out was by the Cardinals’ design, coming on a sacrifice bunt by the second batter of the game.
“I’m very embarrassed,” Foltynewicz said after the game, a season-ending 13-1 loss for the Braves.
Unthinkably, Foltynewicz’s day was done after 1/3 of an inning. He allowed three hits and three walks (one intentional) and was charged with seven runs (six earned). That’s more runs than were scored against Foltynewicz in the entire month of September, when he allowed five in 30 innings across five starts.
“It’s very embarrassing,” he said, making the point for the second time in the post-game interview, “especially at a stage like this for millions of people to see, to let millions of people down. It’s just a tough situation.”
Foltynewicz walked Dexter Fowler to open the game, and the Cardinals, seemingly anticipating a low-scoring finale of the series, had Kolten Wong bunt him to second. Then Paul Goldschmidt reached on an infield single, and Marcell Ozuna singled to right to score Fowler for a 1-0 Cardinals lead.
The first-inning damage would have ended there – and Foltynewicz at least would have made it to the second inning -- if Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman hadn’t booted a potential double-play ground ball hit by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. But the error loaded the bases, still with just one out, and Foltynewicz’s day completely unraveled from there.
“I just didn’t get the job done ... period,” Foltynewicz said.
A walk to Matt Carpenter scored Goldschmidt. A double to right by Tommy Edman scored Ozuna and Molina to stretch the Cardinals’ lead to 4-0. An intentional walk to Paul DeJong ended Foltynewicz’s day. Reliever Max Fried entered with the bases loaded, and all three runners he inherited scored to further tarnish Foltynewicz’s line.
“Stuff happened fast,” Foltynewicz said. “I was just trying to make my pitches as best as I could, and they were just putting the ball in play at spots we couldn’t get to.
“There’s not much to say. I got one out. But other than that, I don’t know what happened out there.”
By the end of the top of the first inning, the Cardinals had sent 14 batters to the plate and led 10-0 – an unfathomable development even in the context of the Braves’ erratic postseason history. It was the most runs scored by a team in the first inning of any postseason game and tied the record for the most by a team in any inning of any postseason game in MLB history.
“For all this hard work for this team to do -- veterans, rookies, all these guys -- and not even give our team a chance before they even get to bat, it’s tough,” Foltynewicz said. “I put everybody in a bad spot right away.
“It’s tough to come back from a couple of runs down in the playoffs, let alone seven, eight, nine in the first (inning).”
Even during his early-season struggles, which resulted in a June demotion to the minor leagues, Foltynewicz didn’t last fewer than four innings in any start.
His worst start, compounded by Freeman’s error, came five days after his best. Just last Friday, in NLDS Game 2, Foltynewicz became the first Braves starter to pitch seven or more scoreless innings in a postseason game since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2001. And in his past 11 starts before Wednesday, dating to Aug. 6, Foltynewicz was 7-1 with a 2.37 ERA.
But his ERA for the 2019 NLDS, which was 0.00 at the start of Game 5, had soared to 7.36 by the middle of the first inning. And Game 2 seemed a very long time ago.
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