NEW YORK – In retrospect, perhaps the Mets weren’t the ideal team for Mike Foltynewicz to face in his season debut.
The Braves right-hander gave up four runs on three long home runs in the first inning Monday and the Mets cruised to a 4-1 win in a series opener at Citi Field. It was the 12th win in 14 games for the Mets, and their 15th win in the past 21 games against the Braves.
“You can’t fall behind guys and then leave fastballs over the middle of the plate,” said Foltynewicz who pitched on two days of rest and said he might have been too amped up and rushed things in the first inning. “It’s the major leagues, everyone’s good. When you fall behind (in counts) like that, it’s not going to be pretty.”
After splitting two well-pitched games against the Cubs at Chicago, where Braves starters Julio Teheran and rookie Aaron Blair allowed a total of just one run and four hits in 13 innings, any semblance of momentum came to a screeching halt in the first inning in Queens.
Foltynewicz threw 42 pitches in the first inning and 98 pitches in 3 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits, four runs and two walks. He has a 10.45 ERA and .408 opponents’ average in three games against the Mets, including a relief appearance as an Astros rookie in September 2014 and two starts for the Braves.
“Four runs in the first inning for us is almost like 10, the way we haven’t been scoring runs,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves are last in the majors in runs per game and home runs. “They almost hit more home runs in one inning than we did the whole month of April. But it is what it is, and we’ve got to continue getting good at-bats and have our pitching staff keep us in ballgames and not fall behind.
“For me, the only time you miss the lack of power is when you get behind like this, and you can’t do anything.”
The Mets (16-8) have 34 home runs in their past 16 games, while the Braves (6-19) have five homers all season.
After the Braves failed to capitalize on two first-inning hits including a Freddie Freeman double against ancient Met Bartolo Colon, Foltynewicz allowed four runs on four consecutive one-out hits in the first inning including a David Wright home run, a Michael Conforto single, and back-to-back homers by Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda. All the homers were on fastballs.
“They’re 94, 95, 96 miles an hour, but these guys are major league hitters, and those balls are right over the middle of the plate,” Gonzalez said. “But he competed. He had a (42-)pitch first inning and he competed, gave us a couple more innings and shut them down. He started mixing his pitches, starting commanding his fastball.”
Colon (2-1) pitched eight scoreless innings for his 220th win, moving past Pedro Martinez for second on the career list among Dominican pitchers behind Juan Marchal (243). The portly 42-year-old allowed seven hits and no walks with seven strikeouts, improving to 5-0 in six starts against the Braves since the beginning of last season.
“He just takes off enough miles per hour when he needs to, ramps it up when he needs to, doesn’t miss spots very often,” Freeman said. “And that’s obviously what he did tonight.”
Gonzalez said, “You want to see young pitchers who are watching games on TV (take note) — it’s not about velocity, it’s about making balls move, and his command. He pounds the strike zone. I think at one point I looked up and he had 80 pitches and almost 70 strikes.”
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