CINCINNATI — The Braves need another consistent pitcher to go along with left-hander Jaime Garcia. Even better for them if Mike Foltynewicz can fill that role because, unlike the older veterans in the rotation, Foltynewicz can be part of the team’s future.
Foltynewicz took another step in his development by dominating the Reds on Friday but the bullpen couldn’t back him up. The Reds tied the game with two runs against closer Jim Johnson in the ninth and won 3-2 on Devin Mesoraco’s walk-off homer against Jose Ramirez in the 10th.
The Braves (22-30) saw their streak of series-opening victories snapped at seven. They’ve lost five of seven games on their trip after going 5-4 during their last home stand.
Foltynewicz put the Braves in prime position. He had 10 strikeouts over seven scoreless with two hits allowed, both singles, and two walks.
“He was really good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That was one of the best ones so far. He was really aggressive. Shame we couldn’t get him the win.”
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Braves reliever Arodys Vizcaino preserved a 2-0 lead by stranding two base runners in the eighth inning. The Reds (25-28) started their comeback when outfielder Adam Duvall led off the bottom of the ninth with a double against Johnson.
Eugenio Suarez followed with another double that scored Duvall. After Johnson struck out Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza’s ground out moved Suarez to third.
Suarez scored when Johnson’s pitch in the dirt got past catcher Tyler Flower, who had tried to backhand it with his glove.
“If it’s straight at me, I’ve got a chance,” Flowers said. “If it’s not straight at me and 93 (mph), nobody gets over there and has a traditional block on a fastball outside your body. If it’s straight at you, you try to get one knee down there as fast as you can. When it’s outside your body all you can do is try to pick it and there’s not enough time to react and slide over there.”
Braves outfielder Nick Markakis led off the 10th with a line drive against the left-field wall but stopped at first when Duvall quickly corralled the ball. The next batter, Matt Kemp, grounded into a double play and Flowers struck out to end the inning.
The Braves got a sacrifice fly from Ender Inciarte in the third inning and a lead-off homer from Dansby Swanson in the fifth. The Braves squandered other chances against right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who allowed two runs over seven innings.
One key play: Kemp made the third out at home in the fourth inning when trying to score from second on Adonis Garcia’s infield single. Shortstop Jose Peraza tried to throw out Garcia on the play and first baseman Joey Votto threw out Kemp from a crouching position.
“He made a great play,” Snitker said. “I don’t know how the hell he threw the ball on his knees that far and that accurate.”
Foltynewicz, 25, rebounded after giving up five earned runs over four innings against the Giants in his previous start. That ended a streak of three consecutive outings with no more than three earned runs allowed and at least five innings pitched.
Foltynewicz overpowered the Reds with his fastball and kept them off balance with his slider. When Reds hitters managed to get on base against Foltynewicz, he struck out them out or induced weak fly balls and harmless grounders.
Foltynewicz said he worked on some adjustments with pitching coach Chuck Fernandez during his last side session.
“They seemed to work tonight,” Foltynewicz said. “Fastball command was probably the biggest thing tonight. It set up my slider, set up my change-up. We were moving in and out, up and down with the fastball. It was probably the best command I’ve had all (year) and it showed.”
Foltynewicz walked Adam Duvall to begin the second inning before getting Eugenio Suarez to pop out and striking out Schebler and Jose Peraza. After Tucker Barnhart singled to lead off the third inning and went to second on a sacrifice, Foltynewicz struck out Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart grounded out to shortstop Swanson.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto walked to lead off the fourth and ended up staying at first because Foltynewicz struck out Duvall and Schebler with a Suarez fly out in between. Foltynewicz struck out the first two batters of the fifth inning, Peraza and Barnhart, and then got Hamilton to ground out to first base after Arroyo singled.
Foltynewicz retired the Reds in order in the sixth inning, including two strikeouts, and his pitch count was above 100. Snitker let Foltynewicz hit with one out in the top of the seventh and the Reds again went down in order in the bottom of the inning.
“He’s a big, strong kid and probably could have went back out for the eighth, really,” Snitker said. “But you are just asking a lot of him there. But that was good to see him go out in the seventh and shut ‘em down like that.”