Touki Toussaint encourages vs. Red Sox’s menacing lineup

Touki Toussaint manhandled the mighty Red Sox for four innings. He came unraveled in the fifth, undone by a trio of doubles that painted a three-run inning in route to the Braves’ 8-2 loss Monday.

But Toussaint’s overall display was notable. He didn’t back down from baseball’s best offense. He started the game with a strikeout of MVP candidate Mookie Betts. He induced a double play from slugger J.D. Martinez to end the frame.

He faced two over the minimum through four, maintaining a no-hitter into the fifth versus a team that’ll be remembered as an all-time offensive juggernaut.

“He’s got everything you need to be successful at the big-league level,” said Kurt Suzuki, who’s caught both Toussaint major league starts. “His attitude’s been great. Works hard. He’s very, very intelligent for a young kid processing information on what he wants to do in certain situations. It’s been fun. It’s been exciting the last two times I caught him. It’s been great.”

Toussaint tantalized in his first start, when he cajoled six one-run innings against Miami. That came with the stipulation, of course, that it was the Marlins, an apathetic rebuilding team that’s as close to Triple-A as Toussaint will see at the highest level.

That wasn’t a qualifier Monday. Boston leads the MLB in runs (744), runs per game (5.39) average (.268), slugging (.457), OPS (.794) and extra-base hits (511). There’s a reasonable chance Toussaint may never see another lineup as potent as he witnessed in his second-career start.

At 22-years-young, Toussaint held that historically great offense hitless until Eduardo Nunez doubled with one down in the fifth. Ian Kinsler and Christian Vazquez followed with doubles of their own. 

The pitches didn’t substantially miss their spots, but take the Kinsler at-bat, for instance, when Toussaint’s sinker was high enough for the second baseman to drive it to center. 

“They’re a good team, they’re going to hit mistakes,” Toussaint said. “I didn’t execute. Happens. It’s baseball.”

Betts’ RBI-single forced Toussaint’s exit. He’d retired the All-Star in his previous two at-bats, and Betts was the lone player he saw for a third time. Nonetheless, start No. 2 provided the same flashed he showed Aug. 13.

That doesn’t guarantee Toussaint a spot in the Braves’ expanded rotation, but it’s increasingly conceivable that he’ll see the bulk of the work there, especially with Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright, other exciting young arms, operating from the bullpen.

“It’s all very, very positive,” manager Brian Snitker said. “How he handles himself. The command, the feel for his secondary pitches is so good. Stuff is live. He’s athletic. He can do a lot of things. He’s going to win a lot of games in this league.”

Snitker spoke glowingly of Toussaint even before his debut. And yes, that’s expected from the manager, but the authentic praise reflects the organization’s stance on their rising starter. 

The Braves see Toussaint as the complete package. His ceiling might be the highest in the system, though that’s easily debatable with pitching depth so rich. But the Braves’ faith in pitching him in a pennant race speaks volumes.

And to think they acquired Toussaint from the Diamondbacks as a reward for absorbing dead money. Appropriately, if Toussaint makes his next start on schedule, his first road outing will be in Arizona.

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