Mike Foltynewicz had no reason to be ashamed Monday.
The Braves starter went eight innings, and allowed just five hits and one earned run, in a 6-1 victory over the Marlins at SunTrust Park. It was a doubleheader sweep for the Braves that moved them a full game ahead of the Phillies for first in the National League East.
Foltynewicz has won his last three starts to regain the form that made him an all-star this season. Most important to the right-hander in his latest victory was the innings pitched.
“The first half of the year, I was a five and dive pitcher,” Foltynewicz said not being able to get to the sixth inning in the majority of his early starts. “It was embarrassing on my part because I’m a starter. I’m supposed to go six, seven, eight innings. I’m getting better the second half of the year. I’m more mentally focused on the game, especially when you get deeper. The third time through (a lineup) you really have to focus and make your pitches. I think I’ve gotten a little better at that.”
Foltynewicz has worked into the sixth inning in six of his past seven starts. He also a complete-game win over the Nationals in June.
In the last three starts and wins, Foltynewicz has a 1.83 ERA, allowing just four earned runs in 19.2 innings. In the previous four starts he went 1-3 with a 6.94 ERA, allowing 18 earned runs in 23.1 innings.
Earlier in his career, the 26-year old had struggled with allowing a big inning that was costly. Those are becoming fewer and farther between this season – a mark of consistency.
“It's been a big factor in why he’s having the year he’s having,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of limiting the big inning. “He’s been more successful. He’s been able to stay pitch to pitch, not get caught up in situations and keeps better control of the game management. There were a couple times today (where he) curbed it back in.”
In his latest victory, Foltynewicz even helped his own cause with a two-out RBI single in the sixth inning. It drew laughter and a standing ovation from his teammates.
“He got a standing ovation because I didn’t think he was ever going to hit the ball again,” Freddie Freeman joked. “He went with a new stance today. It was wider. (His swing) wasn’t so flaily today. He did it all today.”
Foltynewicz improved to 10-7 with the win and dropped his ERA to 2.86.
The Braves are going to need those strong starts in the stretch run of the pennant race to save the bullpen and allow Snitker to use those pitchers situationally.
“To get past the seventh and into the eighth, that’s your job as a starter,” Foltynewicz said. “I’m happy to be out there that long.”
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