LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – These were the kind of innings that could easily have led to a Mike Foltynewicz meltdown in the past. Two runners in scoring position with none out in the first inning Thursday, and two runners on again with none out the second.
But the new and more composed Foltynewicz didn’t blow his top and give up multiple runs in either situation Thursday. In fact, he worked out of both of those tight spots without giving up a run.
JaCoby Jones’ leadoff homer in the second inning was the only run against Foltynewicz, who had seven strikeouts in four innings and gave up five hits and one walk in the Braves’ 5-3 Grapefruit League loss to Detroit at Champion Stadium. The other four Braves runs came in the fifth and sixth innings against reliever Josh Collmenter.
“I really took things slow today,” said Foltynewicz, who worked out of the two-on, none-out jam in the first inning with a strikeout, a fielder’s choice out at home plate and a deep fly that Emilio Bonifacio caught in stride at the edge of the center field warning track.
After Jones homered on the first pitch of the second inning, “Folty” gave up a ground-ball single and a broken-bat single to put two runners on. Then he got a ground out and consecutive strikeouts of Jose Iglesias and Anthony Gose to end the inning with a 2-1 lead preserved.
“I know I was out there for a long time them four innings, but runs didn’t score,” said Foltynewicz, who threw 51 strikes in 71 pitches and has a 2.08 ERA in four spring starts with 12 strikeouts and four walks in 13 innings. “A lot of them could have (scored). That’s one thing I’m going to take into consideration this year, just slowing the game down when I get into jams like that. Which I think really helped.
“I breathed a lot, really thought where I wanted to throw and executed some pitches there. I’ll take that solo home run and getting out of them jams any day.”
After James McCann’s broken-bat hit in the second inning, Foltynewicz retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced. He struck out six of those — two in each inning from the second through fourth — including five strikeouts on called third strikes.
“Usually those fastballs with two strikes, they’re swinging at them or they’re tipping it,” Foltynewicz said. “Today I got some looking. A couple of them caught a lot of the plate, too, but Flow (catcher Tyler Flowers) had a good game plan with the mix of off-speed and curveball, slider. We threw everything today, so I think it really kept them off balance.
“They just weren’t looking for a fastball with two strikes there a couple of times, and we were moving in and out, up and down. It was really good.”
In his past two starts, Foltynewicz has allowed seven hits, two runs and two walks with 10 strikeouts in eight innings.
“Kind of good for him to get into trouble like that, get guys on and have to pitch around, throw his pitches,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “His secondary stuff was good, he located good. He was really good.”
After throwing 71 pitches in four innings, Foltynewicz threw 12 more in the bullpen and said those felt as good as the ones he’d thrown in the game.
“I really like what I saw today,” Snitker said. “He got his pitch (count) up. He’s in a good spot right now. His last three or four have been pretty good. And he’s had to work, which is not a bad thing. I like where he’s going with making pitches to get himself out of trouble.”