Braves pitcher ‘Folty’ bounces back

At about the same time Diamondbacks catcher Chris Hermann’s bat met the ball, Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz pirouetted and turned to watch it soar against the foul pole in right field for a home run.

He made a mistake by throwing a fastball over the plate with an 0-2 count, two outs and no base runners. But it was one of only a handful made by Foltynewicz as he took a big step forward after the Mets roughed him up in his first start of the season.

Foltynewicz held the Diamondbacks to two runs on five hits over seven innings while tying a career high with eight strikeouts. He also didn’t issue a walk for the first time in 17 career starts, which is important for a young pitcher whose control problems have hindered his progress.

This was the kind of performance that showed why the Braves and Foltynewicz still believe he can develop into a starter rather than go to the bullpen.

“Absolutely,” Foltynewicz said. “Against New York was a little rocky but I came in with a different game plan today and cleaned some things up mechanically. Everything was feeling well. Everything was in sync.”

Foltynewicz has a fastball that reaches the upper-90s but he threw plenty of off-speed pitches to the Diamondbacks. It was clear from the beginning that he would avoid the early struggles that have marred most of his poor starts.

After Jake Lamb’s one-out single in the first inning, Foltynewicz responded by retiring the next 11 hitters until Brandon Drury’s lead-off single in the fifth inning. The next batter, Chris Owings, hit potential double-play ground ball but shortstop Erick Aybar didn’t handle it cleanly and settled for the force out at second base.

D-Backs pitcher Patrick Corbin followed with a triple that scored Owings. Foltynewicz retired the next six batters until Herrmann got him in the fifth inning.

Herrmann took a curveball for a strike and swung at a change-up before pulling the third pitch down the line.

“There was a bunch of options we could have went to,” Foltynewicz said. “We could have doubled up on a change but I don’t know if he was kind of fooling me there and was sitting on it again. It leaked right over the middle and he was waiting for it. You’ve just got to tip your cap to him and get the next guy.”

Owings followed with a single before Foltynewicz retired Corbin to end the inning. The seven innings pitched are the second-longest outing of Foltynewicz’s career after he lasted just 3 2/3 innings against the Mets while allowing three home runs in the first inning.

“To be honest with you, the way the Mets were swinging the bats I don’t really care who was pitching,” Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. “He pitched great. Really, since that first inning (at New York) he’s pitched really, really well. Corbin got him (and) I’m sure he wishes he had that one back. But it was a good sign to see (the improvement).”