PHOENIX – For 10 weeks the Braves have been a good bet to win whenever Mike Foltynewicz has pitched. And lately, if you add catcher Kurt Suzuki to that equation it’s been almost a guaranteed positive outcome for the Atlanta squad.
Suzuki had his second two-homer game in July and Foltynewicz won his sixth consecutive decision over nine starts Tuesday night when the Braves scored six runs in the late innings of an 8-3 win against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
The Braves have won six times in the veteran catcher Suzuki’s seven games started in July, and Tuesday was his first game back in the lineup after missing three games in the Dodgers series to be at his grandmother’s funeral over the weekend in his native Hawaii.
“I try to take it day by day, live in the moment,” said Suzuki, 33, an 11-year veteran and 2014 All-Star with the Twins. “Everything’s feeling pretty good right now. I got to take care of some things (in Hawaii), fortunately the organization was so supportive. It was nice to come back and contribute. I was pretty excited to get back with the guys again and start to try to get on a roll.”
His two-run homer in the seventh inning snapped a 2-2 tie and the Braves scored twice more that inning on a throwing error. They added two runs in the eighth including a leadoff homer from Suzuki, who doubled his previous career multi-homer game total with two this month.
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“It’s good to have him back. He’s such a wonderul guy,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, who joked that Suzuki was well rested. “Three days off. He must have hit a little bit too on his break. I don’t know, the guy’s amazing. (His hits) all mean something, too. He doesn’t waste any of them. It’s great for him and the club. He’s a very valuable guy to have.”
Matt Kemp and rookie Johan Camargo added home runs for the Braves, who evened the series at a game apiece and improved to 3-3 on an 11-game, three-city trip that began with a four-game split at Dodger Stadium. They’ll finish the Arizona series Wednesday and have a day off Thursday before a four-game series at Philadelphia.
It was the fourth multi-homer of Suzuki’s career and second in seven July starts. He hit two homers July 2 at Oakland, putting the Braves ahead with each of his homers in the second and 12th innings of that 4-3, 12-inning win.
Four of his six homers in July have given the Braves a lead, and 18 of his 30 RBIs this season have come via 10 home runs. Suzuki is 12-for-32 with six homers and 10 RBIs in eight July games including seven starts and a pinch-hit appearance Monday in his first game back from the bereavement list.
Suzuki and Camargo homered consecutively in the eighth inning, the second homer for Camargo and the third back-to-back jacks for the Braves this season.
Once again, the Braves were at their best in a start by Foltynewicz (9-5), who allowed five hits, two runs and three walks, hit two batters and struck out nine in six innings and 119 pitches. The Braves have won nine consecutive games he’s started and Foltynewicz is 9-1 with a 3.55 ERA in his past 14 starts including 12 team wins.
The right-hander matched the career-high pitch count he had when he took a no-hitter to the ninth inning June 30 at Oakland. Foltynewicz has thrown more than 100 pitches in each of his past six starts including three with at least 110.
The heavy workload seems to suit him: He’s allowed three runs or fewer in seven consecutive starts and posted a 5-0 record and 2.95 ERA in that span.
“His thing right now is making good pitches, and that’s what he’s been doing his last however many times on the mound,” Suzuki said. “Giving us a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask.”
The Braves didn’t get a hit against Arizona starter Taijuan Walker until Freddie Freeman’s fourth-inning single, and they took a 1-0 lead that inning after Freeman’s hustle on Kemp’s fielder’s-choice grounder led to second baseman Brandon Drury, who rushed his toss with Freeman bearing down on second base and had the ball sail past shortstop into left field.
That put runners on the corners with one out, and after a Nick Markakis walk loaded the bases, Matt Adams’ ground-out drove in the first run of what was a pitchers’ duel most of the night. Until the starter’s left the game.
Walker led off the bottom of the fifth with a game-tying home run off Foltynewicz, a shocking development in that it was the first of Walker’s career, came on a 96-mph 0-2 fastball, and sailed an estimated 455 feet, extremely long for a pitcher.
He was the 14th pitcher to hit a home run this season and the third to do it against the Braves, joining, the Cubs’ Mike Montgomery and the Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman. It was the first major league home run for each of that trio.
After Kemp homered in the sixth for a 2-1 lead, the Diamondbacks answered with a run in the bottom of the inning on a leadoff single and an RBI double from Chris Owings.
Foltynewicz hit Chris Ianetta with a pitch with one out in the inning, but Snitker gave him a chance to work out of the jam and he did, striking out the last two batters: pinch-hitter Ketel Marte on an 11-pitch at-bat that included five consecutive foul balls, and David Peralta on nine pitches including a 99-mph fastball.
“I battled pretty well in the sixth inning, lot of pitches,” Foltynewicz said. “(Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez) came out and said, ‘Execute one pitch at a time,’ and that’s what we did. Made a lot of quality pitches in that sixth inning and just kept the team in it. And you saw what they (Braves teammates) did. They seem to score five or six after I get taken out, so it’s awesome to see that and we’ll keep it rolling.”
Asked what message he sent to Foltynewicz by letting him stay in to complete the sixth inning, Snitker said, “Hopefully that I believe in him. He was racking up some pitches, but he kind of put himself in position and he’s been pitching well enough to earn (a chance) to try and get out of that inning to get a win, and he did…. He was getting tired, but the kid is amazing how he can hold his velocity. And, too, he racked up a lot of pitches but he’s going to get an extra day (of rest) next time. It’s just good to finish that inning and put yourself in position for your team to come back and get you a win.”
In the seventh, the Braves blew the game open against Diamondbacks relievers beginning with one-time Braves prospect J.J. Hoover, who gave up the first of Suzuki’s homers.