Sent down in June, Foltynewicz now the Braves’ biggest-game starter

Tuesday was shaping up as a big evening at the Foltynewicz house.

Toy Story 4 has been released on DVD.

“Me and (son) Jett might be on that,” Mike Foltynewicz said Tuesday when asked how he would spend the next few hours in order to not dwell on what faces him and the Braves on Wednesday.

It’s obvious that the starter in Wednesday’s Game 5 of the best-of-5 NLDS against St. Louis has scouted both the Cardinals and Disney. Diversions are good idea here before Foltynewicz makes the most important start of an adventurous career. And if Woody offers any helpful inspiration on how to get Paul Goldschmidt out, that will be just a bonus. 

To help save their postseason, the Braves turn to Foltynewicz, the same pitcher they sent down in June to Gwinnett, where the Braves send their broken toys to be fixed.

The man who returned to them in August had his mind right and his slider tight. He was practically untouchable the last month of the season, he and his 1.50 ERA in five starts. And, of course, against the Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty in Game 2 of the NLDS, he was practically flawless over seven innings. He gave up but three hits and no runs – striking out seven and walking none – before being lifted for a pinch hitter. Who happened to hit a home run and send the SunTrust Park customers home happy.

His manager is very much counting on a Folty instant replay Wednesday evening back at the home park. 

“He's had some really good postseason performances, and division-clinching performances,” Brian Snitker said. “The last two years he's pitched in some big games for us and come through. And I think he's very prepared for what he's going to go through (Wednesday).”

How strange that a pitcher who has been so flighty as to go from being an All-Star in 2018 to being sent down to Triple-A the next season is now the rock upon which the Braves are anchoring their Game 5 hopes.

If nothing else, Foltynewicz has had plenty of practice applying the power of positive thinking.

As he said, after getting sent down, “You can think negative pretty quickly and get in a hole pretty quickly. (His support) come not only from my wife and kids. It was the coaching staff down there and the guys I was with (like Adam Duvall and Rafael Ortega). We all had one goal in mind. We wanted to get back here and help these boys out.”

“I kept my head down, kept pounding to get to where we are today,” Foltynewicz said. “I knew we’d be in this situation. Now I just have to go out and execute. Go out and slow the game down and be aggressive and attack.”

This will be Foltynewicz’s fourth time facing the Cardinals this season, each outing progressively better than the one before. Anything was likely to be an improvement over the first meeting, when he gave up eight earned runs to the Cards in early May. He hasn’t yielded an earned run to them since, through 13 innings.

He will be matched again against St. Louis’ Flaherty, considered one of the hottest pitchers in this season’s second half. Their Game 2 was a tight duel until Duvall’s home run gave the Braves a 3-0 cushion.

“It’s lining up to be a normal start day – I got my days in between, got my bullpens in, all that fun stuff,” Foltynewicz said. “We’ve seen these guys plenty of times now. It’s kind of like a chess game a little bit. I have to go out there and focus and execute. 

“All four of these games have been tremendous, I don’t even have any nails now.”

This also will be the second time in two years that Foltynewicz starts a win-or-else postseason game for the Braves. He was pitching fairly effectively against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of last year’s NLDS, the Braves trailing 1-0 when he was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth inning with runners on second and third. Kurt Suzuki singled to drive in two, but the Braves couldn’t hold the lead and lost the game and the series.

Like that game, the demands of Wednesday’s Game 5 are such that Foltynewicz will have to be at his best to stay long on the mound. The tension will be thick, oppressive. A night back at the house quietly watching a Disney blockbuster with the family will seem like another life. Enjoy the peace.   

“Sure. The adrenaline be pumping,” he said of his workplace environment Thursday. “Everybody will be aggressive. Everybody will be ready.”

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