PHILADELPHIA – This was not a good time for young Braves pitchers to come into cozy Citizens Bank Park to face the Phillies. Particularly not pitchers with a proclivity for giving up home runs.
The Phillies hit four homers in six innings against Mike Foltynewicz and rolled to a 5-1 win, handing the Braves their 10th loss in 14 games since a six-game winning streak.
“Just pitches that didn’t get where he wanted them, and they made him pay,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said of Foltynewicz, who made his second start since returning from a month on the disabled list for bone spurs in his elbow.
The highlight for the Braves was Ender Inciarte’s first homer, in the seventh inning with the Phillies leading 5-0.
The Braves will try to avoid a sweep Wednesday when they send rookie Tyrell Jenkins to make his first major league start in the series finale. He’ll be subbing for All-Star Julio Teheran, who was scratched due to a thigh infection.
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There was but one Braves runner in scoring position all night Tuesday as Phillies rookie Zach Eflin (1-2) threw a six-hit complete game with no walks and six strikeouts for his first major league win in his fifth start.
“It didn’t feel like he was spotting everything,” said Inciarte, back in the lineup after missing three starts with a strained groin. “He was missing, but we were just not able to execute our plan. He pitched a complete game so we’ve got to tip our caps to him.”
After pounding out eight extra-base hits against rookie Joel De La Cruz in a 9-2 win Tuesday, the Phillies continued with the big sticks against hard-throwing Foltynewicz (2-3), who gave up eight hits, five runs and one walk with five strikeouts. But the number that jumped off the page was the four homers, three of them on two-strike pitches.
Snitker said Foltynewicz did most of the work for the Phillies on the homers by leaving fastballs up in the strike zone.
“When I got two strikes I think I got amped up a little bit,” Foltynewicz said. “Just tried to overthrow, and they did not miss a mistake pitch tonight. It was either a home run or a base hit. So get back to the drawing board and just relax when I throw two-strike (pitches), concentrate and make a pitch.”
It was his second start since returning from a one-month stint on the disabled list for bone spurs in his pitching elbow, and Foltynewicz pitched just three innings in his first start back due to a long rain delay. He made only one injury-rehab start because the Braves had a rotation need due to other injuries.
“He’s been laid off for a long time,” Snitker said. “He’s not sharp because he’s had limited (innings). We’ve just got to get him back out there on a regular basis, get him back in his routine and I think he’ll be fine, because you see bits and pieces and spurts where his stuff is really, really good and it’s electric.”
He’s 3-7 with a 5.51 ERA in past 15 starts going back to mid-June 2015, and in that span Foltynewicz has allowed 22 home runs in 78 1/3 innings as a starter. He’s given up multiple homers in six starts, including another four-homer game against the Giants on Aug. 3 at Turner Field.
On Tuesday the second batter he faced, Peter Bourjos, homered on an 0-2 fastball, extending his hitting streak to a career-best 14 games. Cody Asche led off the fourth inning with a homer on a full-count fastball, and the Phillies added another run in the inning on two singles, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly.
Franco led off the sixth inning with his 16th home run on a 2-2 pitch, giving him homers in three consecutive games and pushed the leading to 4-0. And two batters later, Tommy Joseph hit a long first-pitch homer to left-center to push the lead to 5-0 and sent Foltynewicz to the showers.
“Everything feels fine (physically),” Foltynewicz said. “It’s just getting back to, when I get two strikes I just try to overthrow the ball. It goes over the middle of the plate and they hit it. Just get back to getting the ball down.”
The Phillies began Tuesday as the hottest-hitting team in the majors. Seriously. Since June 21 they were leading the majors in batting average (.321), slugging percentage (.527), OPS (.894) and extra-base hits (56), which included six extra-base hits in one inning Monday against Braves rookie Joel De La Cruz.
Their slugging percentage and OPS kept rising Tuesday, when the Phillies’ four homers off Foltynewicz raised their total to 22 homers in 14 games.