As for Braves apt to be here next year and beyond, two of them had a Memorial Day to remember. Mallex Smith, the 23-year-old who has been their most valuable position player if we go by Baseball-Reference's WAR (wins above replacement), lined a three-run triple the opposite way off Jeff Samardzija, who entered with an ERA of 2.54.
Mike Foltynewicz, the 24-year-old invariably described as “hard-throwing,” threw not just hard but well, yielding three hits over six innings. Snitker, who managed Foltynewicz last season for Gwinnett, recalled a dominant performance against Norfolk but pronounced this “probably the best total package I’ve seen from him.”
With two on and the Braves leading 5-1 in the sixth, Foltynewicz faced Brandon Belt, whose homer off a 94-mph fastball had given the Giants, who entered with the second-best record in baseball, their run. This time Foltynewicz fanned Belt on a heater registering 97. It was his 86th pitch on an 88-degree day.
Arodys Vizcaino, the 25-year-old closer, shook off three singles and two errors, the second being Kelly Johnson’s flub of what should have been Buster Posey’s game-ending smash, to retire Kelby Tomlinson on a grounder to third. This was Vizcaino’s worst inning of the year, and still he fought through it. He’s terrific.
Those Braves– Smith, Foltynewicz and Vizcaino – are three to build on. (Matt Wisler, who pitches Tuesday, is a fourth.) More are en route. It’s hard to imagine that infielders Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies won’t be here before summer’s end, and maybe Rio Ruiz, too. Lucas Sims has had two rough starts since being promoted to Gwinnett, but he’s coming fast.
There has been nothing to like about the 2016 Braves’ record, but we say again: What we’ve seen isn’t necessarily what we’ll see. Better days are coming. Memorial Day was a good day.