Adding another chapter to his remarkable turnaround season, Mike Foltynewicz threw seven crisp innings before pinch-hitter Adam Duvall hit a two-run homer that carried the Atlanta Braves to a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, evening the National League Division Series at one game apiece.
Foltynewicz, who spent a good chunk of his summer in triple A after a miserable start, has been a different pitcher since returning from the minors. He went 6-1 with a 2.65 earned-run average over his last 10 starts — a dominating run that carried right into the postseason.
The best-of-five series now shifts to St. Louis, where Mike Soroka gets the ball for the Braves in Game 3 on Sunday against Adam Wainwright.
Going against St. Louis ace Jack Flaherty, who had one of the great second halves in baseball history, Foltynewicz allowed only three hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out seven during an 83-pitch outing that kept the Cardinals from mounting any semblance of offense. They only got one runner as far as second base against him — and that was in the second when Yadier Molina singled and Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies extended the inning by misplaying Paul DeJong’s grounder for an error.
No problem for Foltynewicz. He fanned Harrison Bader to end the threat.
After Kolten Wong hit into a double play to end the seventh, Duvall emerged from the dugout to hit for Foltynewicz in the bottom half. With a runner aboard and two outs, Duvall was greeted by a smattering of boos from the SunTrust Park crowd that clearly wanted Foltynewicz to go at least one more inning — especially after the Braves’ bullpen imploded the night before in a Game 1 loss.
The heckles turned to cheers when Duvall drove a 3-2 pitch from Flaherty into the center-field seats, giving the Braves a bit of breathing room. Duvall spent nearly the entire season at triple A, where he set a franchise record with 32 homers, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say this as much a victory for the Gwinnett Stripers as the Braves.
Max Fried, normally a starter and pitching on back-to-back days for the first time all season, breezed through the eighth before turning it over to Mark Melancon, who gave up four runs in the ninth inning of the series opener, sending the Braves to a 7-6 loss.
It was another shaky outing for Melancon, who gave up a pair of one-out singles before striking out Molina and Wong to earn the save.
But this one will be remembered for Foltynewicz outdueling Flaherty, who had surrendered three runs only one time in 15 second-half starts. The 23-year-old right-hander went 7-2 with an 0.91 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break, the third-lowest ERA over the second half in baseball history, surpassed only by Jake Arrieta (0.75) for the 2015 Chicago Cubs and Greg Maddux (0.87) for the 1994 Braves.
Flaherty was the NL pitcher of the month for both August and September.
Foltynewicz has the edge for October honors, having pulled off his own tale of two seasons. An All-Star in 2018 who started two games for the Braves in last year’s playoffs, he was demoted to the minors in late June with a record of 2-5 and a 6.37 ERA.
Now, in a game the Braves absolutely had to have, he turned in his best performance of all.
The only time he was really threatened was in the fourth, when Wong hit one to warning track in right with a man aboard for the third out.