A look back at Folty’s outing and other Braves tidbits

Baseball is a  funny game, but you probably already knew this.  Had Mike Foltynewicz recorded just one more out against the Rays last night, we’d probably be talking about the steady progress he has made through each of his first four career starts.

Instead, Foltynewicz opened Tuesday’s fifth inning with consecutive strikeouts and then issued his only walk of the night, before uncorking a wild pitch ahead of surrendering consecutive run-producing two-out hits.  Suddenly, the Rays had a two-run lead and the rookie hurler was doomed to speak to reporters about the disappointment he was feeling following his first career loss.

Yeah, Foltynewicz might have lost his focus when he was admittedly “overthrowing” in the process of issuing James Loney a two-out walk in the fifth.  He had registered strikes with 57 of the previous 76 pitches he had thrown before issuing the free pass to Loney.  The only three-ball count he had encountered against the previous 21 batters he faced had occurred way back in the first inning.

But within a span of three batters, all that he had accomplished through his first 4 2/3 innings was tarnished by what transpired as he attempted to notch his final out.

There is a definitely a place in this game for numbers.  But when reviewing Foltynewicz’s latest outing, it might be best to go with the simple assessment manager Fredi Gonzalez provided when he said this was simply a case of a young pitcher “losing his concentration

Foltynewicz was hurt by a 0-2 curveball that he didn’t bury in the first inning (Kevin Kiermaier’s leadoff triple) and a poorly-located two-strike fastball (Asdrubal Cabrera’s fourth-inning home run). But he was steady through most of the outing and his confidence likely grew as he needed just seven pitches to notch consecutive strikeouts to begin the fifth inning.

Unfortunately, that additional confidence likely fueled the adrenaline rush that led him to make the “youthful” mistake to begin overthrowing

“I kind of started trying to overthrow stuff and trying to make things break a little more than I wanted to,” Foltynewicz said after allowing the Rays five runs over five innings.

With Tuesday’s outing now in the rear-view mirror, Foltynewicz has no choice but to take the positives that have developed through his first four starts and attempt to learn from the mistakes he has made.

Odds and ends:

As Foltynewicz has flashed his curveball more consistently in his past two starts, he has produced better swing-and-miss rates in his past two starts (13.2 percent vs. Rays and 13.5 percent at Cincinnati) than he did in his first two starts (10.9 percent vs. Phillies and 4.3 percent in his first start against the Reds).

To put these numbers in perspective, the only six Major League starting pitchers to produce a 13 percent swing-and-miss-rate this year are James Shields (14.8), Corey Kluber (14.6), Clayton Kershaw (13.8), Max Scherzer (13.7), Carlos Carrasco (13.1) and Francisco Liriano (13.0).

Given that Foltynewicz has drawn some comparisons to John Smoltz, it might be worth noting that Smoltz’s first real rough outing also occurred in his fourth career start.  Smoltz posted a 3.63 ERA in his first three career starts and then did not get out of the third inning in any of his next three starts.

Braves left fielders were batting .209 with a .600 OPS before Todd Cunningham went 9-for-15 with a pair of doubles while manning the position over the past four games.  Cunningham’s production has improved those left field numbers to a .252 batting average and .703 OPS.

The Braves have faced a left-handed starting pitcher just once in their past 25 games.  They didn’t see a left-handed reliever in five of these contests.  Thus, Jonny Gomes’ on-field value has been minimal as of late.  Gomes has batted .175 (7-for-40) while compiling just nine at-bats against left-handers during this 25-game span.

Though the Braves are not scheduled to face a left-handed pitcher the rest of this homestand, expect Gomes to get at least one start in left field during this weekend’s series against the Brewers.  This would allow him to prepare for the consecutive starts he will likely get against lefties Brett Anderson and Clayton Kershaw on Monday and Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

If Cunningham remains hot, Gonzalez would have the option to put him in center while Gomes fills the left field role.

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