MIAMI – Mike Foltynewicz was the Braves’ best starter this early season before getting his doors blown off by the Cardinals last time out. He was back in good form Friday and finally got solid support both in the field and at the plate.
Tyler Flowers had four RBIs including his first home run and Foltynewicz pitched six strong innings in an 8-4 series-opening win at Marlins Park, snapping the Braves’ six-game losing streak and Foltynewicz’s personal skid.
Foltynewicz (1-4) was charged with six hits, one run and no walks with four strikeouts in six innings before leaving for a pinch-hitter with two on and none out in the seventh inning and the Braves nursing a 2-1 lead. They scored a season-high six in that inning, hence the final score that was no indication of the tight game that Foltynewicz pitched so well in.
“That’s the thing I probably feel the best about tonight, was how he went about it in a close ball game and the pitches that he made and some jams he got out of,” said manager Brian Snitker, whose Braves picked up just their second win in 10 games and sixth win in 20.
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“We needed somebody to take us for a ride and he did it. I thought he’d bounce back, and he did. Might have been his best game yet, especially with the (slim) lead.”
The Braves (12-20) have one fewer loss than the free-falling Marlins (13-21), who’ve dropped 13 of 16 since a 10-8 start. The Braves are a majors-best 33-15 at Marlins Park since the retractable-dome stadium opened in 2012, including 8-3 since the beginning of last season.
Flowers’ two-run homer in the second inning gave the Braves a lead they never relinquished, but it was still just a 2-1 margin before the six-run outburst in the seventh, an unusual inning that began with Flowers being hit by a pitch, was capped by Flowers’ two-run single and also included a run scoring on a bases-loaded balk.
“It was definitely nice to get ahead early, help the starting pitching relax a little bit,” said Flowers, who matched his career high for RBIs, which he’s done five times. “(They they can just) worry about executing pitches. And Folty did a good job with that. We got ahead of, it seems like, most everybody, and that opens up options for pitches.”
Brandon Phillips also had a two-run single in the seventh after Marlins manager Don Mattingly decided to intentionally walk Ender Inciarte to load the bases with one out. Foltynewicz was replaced by pinch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio after the first two in the inning reached base (Bonifacio put down a sacrifice bunt with Inciarte on deck).
“We finally had the opportunities we cashed in,” said Braves slugger Freddie Freeman, who had a double and two walks in five plate appearances including a walk in the six-run seventh. “That’s kind of the name of the game for us the past couple of weeks – we haven’t been getting those hits. And today we did. We pitched and we hit today.
“Those (add-on runs) are always big. When you get some runs you’ve got to keep stepping on their throats. Keep going, keep adding as much as you can, because you never know what’s going to happen. And you see what they did, they scored three runs (late).”
Because Foltynewicz was still the pitcher of record, he was credited with eight support runs including six runs in the seventh inning – more than he got in five previous starts combined (five runs).
The Braves lost every game Foltynewicz pitched this season before Friday, including five starts and one relief appearance. His 0-4 record in that span matched his longest losing streak, despite his 2.81 ERA through his first five outings before the seven-run, four-inning whipping by the Cardinals a week earlier.
“He’s only really had one bad start this year and it was the last one,” Freeman said. “He’s been pretty impressive all year.”
He got two extra days’ rest after off days in the schedule and came out sharp, allowing four singles (three of the infield variety) and a hit batter through four scoreless innings before Justin Bour led off the fifth with a towering homer to the second seating deck in right field.
Foltynewicz responded well after the homer, settling back into a groove and recording nine outs in his last 10 batters.
“There were a lot of good moments in there,” he said. “Second and third innings, getting out of jams with no outs and one out. The fifth and sixth innings, going through the heart of the lineup with a one-run lead. It was a little stressful but that’s what you’re out there for, to get the job done….
“Just going out there, I know the team needs a win. We’re way better than (the record indicates). I was just going to go out there and battle my butt off as best I could to get this win and get this thing turned around, and go into the weekend with a win and build off that.”
It was the Braves’ first win since May 2 against the Mets. They had a rainout, two scheduled days off and six losses between those wins 10 days apart.
Jose Urina made his second start of the season after being moved from Miami’s bullpen due to injuries to other starters. He entered with a 1.69 ERA, pitched a perfect first inning including a strikeout of Freeman, and induced a double-play grounder from Adonis Garcia after consecutive singles by Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis to start the second inning.
Next up was Flowers, who drove the first pitch over the left-field fence for a 2-0 lead. Those were the only runs allowed by Urena. But when the Marlins bullpen took over in the seventh, the Braves got busy.