Sean Newcomb’s season began inauspiciously when he gave up five hits, six runs (five earned) and four walks in 4 1/3 innings of an 8-1 loss to the Nationals on April 2.
But since then, it’s not exaggerating to say the young Braves left-hander has been one of baseball’s top starting pitchers.
Newcomb limited the Marlins to four hits, one run and two walks in six innings of an 8-1 win Saturday night -- and that was his worst start in his past four.
That says plenty about the pitching he’s produced lately.
Since the loss in his season debut, Newcomb is 5-0 with a 1.68 ERA and .182 opponents’ average in his past eight starts, with 52 strikeouts, 20 walks and only two homers allowed in 48 1/3 innings.
But in his past four starts he’s gone next-level, posting a 4-0 record, microscopic 0.36 ERA, .110 opponents’ average and .353 opponents’ OPS, and allowing just one run and nine hits in 25 innings.
He had a streak of 21 consecutive scoreless innings snapped Saturday, but Newcomb got out of a couple of jams on a night when he didn’t have command of his full repertoire and still was in control of the situation.
Here’s what Braves manager Brian Snitker and Newcomb had to say about the performance and how far the lefty has come after just 28 major league starts.
** BRIAN SNITKER
On Newcomb’s performance Saturday
“It seemed like he really had to grind through this one today, but he stayed current with pitch-to-pitch and made some big pitches when he had to. I didn’t feel like he was real sharp, just got that sense. Kind of mounted a lot of pitches early, but he just kept pitching, never gave in, made a big pitch when he had to and just a really good sign of maturity out of him.”
His thoughts about Newcomb’s rapid recent progress
“You start thinking the kid’s starting to get it and be for real. I mean, he’s kind of what we want him to be. He’s done a great job. It’s good to see. I just love how he’s backing up each (good start) with another one. Just the way he’s going about it, the composure he’s showing, the mound presence, just never getting caught up in a moment. And I thought Zuke (catcher Kurt Suzuki) did a great job with him too, getting him through that.”
What’s biggest difference in Newcomb this season compared to 2017?
“I just think it’s probably confidence. The change-up. Fastball command. There’s a lot of things, but I think mainly just getting settled in up here and realizing that you’re pretty good and you can pitch up here. And he’s learning something every time out. He’s a really hard worker, he’s one of those professional guys, you don’t know he’s around really. Just very dedicated to what he’s doing. He’s maturing.”
On getting good results when didn’t have his best stuff
“That was good. Just another one of those games where I had to make the fastball work, keep attacking. I was falling behind guys a little more than usual, but did a good job bouncing back and getting balls in the zone.”
Second-inning jam, two on nobody out, only gave up one run there, then got out unscathed from a later jam
“Once they both got out there (on the bases) my mindset was, got to keep them where they’re at. They got a couple of ground balls, got one (run) in. Happy to keep some soft contact going, keep them from getting both runs.”
On getting through six innings with only one run allowed on a night when you weren’t blowing guys away and piling up strikeouts
“Yeah, definitely. Didn’t have my best stuff, but I was able to get some fastballs in the zone, try to make other things work a little bit, get some weak contact was all I was trying to do.”