The way things have gone lately for the Braves, they should’ve known that a six-run second inning and a 7-0 lead for Mike Foltynewicz would not assure an easy night. Nothing’s come easy lately for anyone – well, anyone not named Ozzie Albies.
After the Blue Jays scored five runs in the seventh inning to get within 7-5, Albies hit his second homer of the game and 20th of the season, a two-run shot in the eighth inning that returned some breathing room for the Braves in a 9-5 win at SunTrust Park.
He did it with his mother, Judari, in the stands after she arrived from Curacao Tuesday and saw him play for the first time since opening day.
It was the first two-homer game of the All-Star second baseman’s career, and Albies became the first Brave to hit 20 homers before the All-Star break since fellow Curacao native Andruw Jones in 2006 and the first Brave to hit a home run from each of the plate in a game since Nick Swisher did it at Wrigley Field on Aug. 22, 2015.
Albies, who has a .418 average with 38 hits including four homers in his past 20 games, also had a sacrifice fly to finish with four RBIs, one off his career-high.
Foltynewicz had a one-hit shutout and a seven-run lead until the seventh inning, when the Blue Jays rocked him five runs and two homers including a Devon Travis grand slam to chase him from the game before Foltynewicz could get a third out.
The Braves hung on for a split of the two-game series at SunTrust Park, but their All-Star pitcher Foltynewicz will go to the break having allowed a five-run inning in each of his past two starts.
The six-run second inning was a most welcome outburst for the Braves, who split the two-game series and picked up just their second win in the past eight games. It came one night after Braves relievers gave up five runs in the eighth inning of a 6-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
The Braves turned the tables on Toronto in the second inning with six runs on five hits, a sacrifice fly and a squeeze bunt by Foltynewicz that got the scoring started. Fellow Braves All-Stars Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and Albies all had an RBI in the inning.
After allowing five runs in the second inning of his Friday start at Milwaukee, Foltynewicz was named a first-time All-Star Sunday and pitched like it Wednesday -- for six innings.
He had allowed only one hit before Justin Smoak led off the seventh inning with his 14th homer. Foltynewicz struck out the next two batters and looked like he’d get through seven innings in under 90 pitches. But the Blue Jays had other ideas, reeling off three consecutive two-out singles to load the bases.
Travis cleared them with his sixth home run, a shot to right-center that kept carrying until it cleared the brick wall in right-center. The crowd was stunned. The lead was down to two runs, 7-5.
That was all for Folty, removed after going 6 2/3 innings and charged with six hits, five runs and two walks with six strikeouts. It was a tale of two games for him – the first through sixth innings and the seventh-inning collapse.
His ERA has climbed from 2.02 to 2.66 in his past two starts, with 12 hits, 10 earned runs and four homers allowed in 12 2/3 innings of those games against the Brewers and Blue Jays, all the scoring coming in a pair of five-run innings. He had an identical yield of six hits, five runs and two homers against the Brewers, though he lasted two more outs against the Blue Jays.
The six-run Braves second inning that seemed like a scoring overload would have been barely enough if not for Albies’ two late homers.
Johan Camargo got that second inning started with a leadoff single, and one out later Dansby Swanson grinded out a 10-pitch at-bat and singled to put runners on the corners. Foltynewicz followed with a squeeze bunt to the right side to score Camargo with the first run of the game, then Ender Inciarte doubled to the right-center warning track to drive in another.
Albies’ sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 3-0 and the Braves were only halfway done with their scoring in the inning. There were two out now, and the Braves added to their National League lead in two-out runs by getting a run-scoring single from Freeman, an RBI double Markakis – Freeman used plenty of hustle and a superb slide to score -- and a Tyler Flowers single that extended the lead to 6-0.
That gave them 180 two-out runs in 91 games and a majors-leading 290 hits with two outs. They needed every bit of it.
Blue Jays starter Sam Gaviglio didn’t make it out of the second inning and gave up six runs and six hits. He also hit Inciarte in the right elbow with a pitch to start the game, and Inciarte was replaced in the fifth inning.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said Inciarte’s elbow stiffened after he got hit, but that he expected he’d be ready to play Friday after the Braves’ day off Thursday.