‘Folty’ gets rocked, Acuna exits early in loss to Brewers

Braves manager Brian Snitker updated the condition of Ronald Acuna, who left Friday’s 5-4 loss at Milwaukee with groin tightness. (Video by David O’Brien)

MILWAUKEE – Mike Foltynewicz had his second awful inning of the season Friday and it proved decisive in sending the Braves to their season-high fourth consecutive loss. But for a while all that mattered for much of Braves Country was not the score of the game against the Brewers but the condition of rookie sensation Ronald Acuna, who left with an injury after beating out an infield hit in the seventh inning.

Acuna had just returned from the disabled list one week ago after missing one month with a left-knee sprain and knee and lower-back contusions, and already hit two home runs in the first seven games of the current trip including a game-winner in the 11th inning Monday at Yankee Stadium. The thought of losing him again was enough to make even Foltynewicz’s five-run third inning Friday seem trivial by comparison.

Some relief came via an announcement from the Braves an inning later: Acuna exited the game due to left-groin tightness. Not a knee or hamstring injury and not a significant groin strain. Just tightness. A collective sigh from across the Southeast.

There’s a chance he could be back in the lineup Saturday.

“I feel pretty good right now,” Acuna said through a translator after the game. “As far as playing tomorrow, I’m not sure, mostly because I’m not going to make that decision. ... I don’t think it’s anything serious, but I definitely understand (being cautious). I think that’s why we’re taking it day to day.”

Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) walks to the dugout with a trainer during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Friday, July 6, 2018, in Milwaukee. 

Credit: Aaron Gash

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Credit: Aaron Gash

Acuna bounced a ground ball to the third-base side and said he felt his groin tighten after he took his first three or four steps towards first base.

“I started to really kind of lunge and pick up some speed, and that’s kind of where I felt it tighten up,” he said.

After Acuna briefly talked with a trainer at first base, manager Brian Snitker replaced him with pinch-runner Charlie Culberson.

“It was enough that he’s been though so much, I don’t want to take a chance pushing him,” Snitker said. “He tested out good. (Head trainer) George (Poulis) said it was strong. Everything was good.

“We’ll evaluate him again tonight and in the morning. He may be able to go tomorrow, I just didn’t want to take a chance tonight. I’m not going to take any chances with that kid, as much as he’s been through.”

“The legs are so much a part of his game that I just wanted to err on the side of caution.”

Meanwhile, the Braves’ late rally fell short in a 5-4 loss at Miller Park, where they scored in the first inning for the second straight night and their starter couldn’t hold the lead for even one-third of a game. They need to win the last two games of the series to salvage a split of the four-game series and a winning record on a 10-game trip that started with such promise in their sweep at St. Louis.

The Braves seemed poised to pull off another of their late-innings comeback wins after getting three runs in the seventh inning against reliever Jacob Barnes, who left without recording an out after Acuna’s hit drove in one run and Dansby Swanson’s single drove in two.

But with the Brewers’ lead cut to 5-4 and two runners in scoring position with none out, reliever Dan Jennings retired three in a row beginning with the biggest out of the game, a strikeout of Danny Santana when a fly ball would’ve been enough to bring in the tying run.

Jennings then got Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies on ground-outs to end the inning.

“We were a productive out away from tying the game,” Snitker said. “I mean, we didn’t even need a hit, we needed a (productive) out and couldn’t do it.”

The Braves had been the last National League team without a losing streak of longer than three games this season. Now there are none. They’ve dropped four since their series-opening win at Yankee Stadium, where Acuna’s two-run homer was the difference.

Foltynewicz (6-5) allowed six hits and five runs in six innings, with no walks and seven strikeouts. It was just the second time he yielded more than two earned runs this season and the first time he gave up multiple homers since the Phillies hit two against him in his March 30 season debut.

He had served up just four homers in 15 starts since then, but Foltynewicz gave up half that many in the third inning to Tyler Saladino and Jesus Aguilar.

Foltynewicz allowed one or no runs in 11 of his first 16 starts before Friday including each of his past three. The only time he’d given up more two earned runs was a May 4 start against the Giants when he gave up nine hits and six runs in five innings. All six runs against him in that game came in the second inning, and all five that he allowed Friday came in the third inning, putting the Braves in a 5-1 hole.

The score stayed that way until the seventh inning. Brewers starter Freddy Peralta allowed just three hits, one run and three walks in six innings, the run coming in the first on an Inciarte leadoff walk and Albies double with a Brewers error on the play.

The Braves only got one hit in the second through sixth innings against Peralta. But in the seventh, their bats woke quickly against Barnes. Nick Markakis hit a leadoff single, Kurt Suzuki walked and Johan Camargo singled to load the bases before Acuna topped a slow ground ball to the left side for a hit, bringing in the first run of the inning.

Swanson followed with a two-run single and the Braves had trimmed the lead to 5-4. But that was all for Barnes, and for the rally.

“Obviously a little bit frustrating just because we had put ourselves in such a good position there and didn’t get it done,” Swanson said. “But at the end of the day, got all the faith in the world in the three guys that came up in Danny, Ender and Ozzie. It just didn’t happen this time.

“That’s what makes this game so crazy is that kind of stuff can happen. But you’ve got to give some credit to them and Jennings coming in and making a lot of good pitches. He stayed down in the zone and mixed up his pitches well. So you’ve got to give some credit where credit’s due.”