Foltynewicz’s dominance shines in Braves’ victory

Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz was at a crossroads. Two years after arriving in Atlanta in the Evan Gattis trade, Foltynewicz seemed stuck between the major-league club and Triple-A Gwinnett.

Foltynewicz has all the skills to be a front-line starter. He has a cannon arm that reaches 96 mph on a consistent basis. He also has a strong breaking ball. His issue was command.

In 2015, Foltynewicz was 4-6 with a 5.71 ERA. He also gave up 17 home runs and allowed 112 hits. This prompted some to question his longevity. Many people wondered whether he would he live up to his first-round draft status. Others believed he would never develop into a starting pitcher.

Then September happened.

On Sept. 18, Foltynewicz was rushed to the hospital with a blood clots in his right arm. His arm had swelled to twice the size of his left arm. The result led to him getting immediate surgery to remove part of a rib. Sidelined for months, Foltynewicz wasn’t able to recover until the start of the 2016 season.

After spending April at Triple-A, Foltynewicz looked like a different pitcher when he returned to the majors. He had more command of his fastball and could spot it in any location. In his past five starts, Foltynewicz is 1-2 with a 3.95 ERA. He looks more comfortable on the mound, and he is.

“I think in the past, I would’ve been up there throwing within seven seconds of each other,” Foltynewicz said after limiting the Giants to three hits and one run in six innings of Monday’s 5-3 win. “I took my time up there today and A.J. (Pierzynski) reminded me a few times to settle down and get back into the pace today.”

One of those reminders happened after Brandon Belt hit a home run over the right-field wall. It happened to be on a fastball and Foltynewicz knew it immediately.

“It kind of woke me up,” he said. “I was too relaxed at that point and he turned out it and was ready for it. I was like, alright no more runs after this. I am going to keep the score right here and allow my team to come back to win.”

Foltynewicz kept his word. He retired the next 10 batters in order and didn’t allow another hit until the sixth inning.

“He really pitched well, it goes without saying,” Pierzynski said. “He really had command of his fastball, he was able to throw his off-speed (pitches) for strikes, kept them off balance pretty well. That’s what Folty can do. He throws so hard that guys have to respect his fastball. When he puts it in good spots, it makes it tough on hitters.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker agrees. He has seen this side of Foltynewicz before at Triple-A, when he was the manager.

“He had a game in Norfolk last year and it was just dominating,” Snitker said. “The off-speed stuff was just a lot better today than it was that night.”

Snitker also said it was tough to take Foltynewicz out of the game. He admitted to him still having “more gas in the tank” but wanted to save his arm on a hot afternoon.

“It’s one of those things as a manager that you make those decisions,” Snitker said. “He is a competitive kid. When he gets out there on the mound, he is a bull. So the whole thing is really nice.”

Braves starters have a 2.82 ERA over the past 12 games. The group has only allowed six home runs in 70 1/3 over that span.