The Braves need one more win or a Nationals loss to clinch the NL East crown. However, we aren’t going to talk about the second part. Nobody likes to lose their way into a division crown. We want The Battery to be bumping, and the party to continue until the sun rises after the Braves beatdown the Giants tonight at SunTrust Park.
This game also presents the opportunity for the story of Mike Foltynewicz’s 2019 to come full circle. Entering the season, Folty was the undisputed ace of the staff following an All-Star campaign in 2018. However, an elbow injury set him back, and it never seemed like he fully recovered. When he returned, his velocity was down, and his offspeed pitches were hanging over the plate like beach balls to opposing hitters.
You could see the frustration in Folty’s face every time he toed the rubber – red as a cherry tomato, arms flailing everywhere – as each start got progressively worse. His performance was so abysmal that after a June 22nd start against the Washington Nationals in which he gave up eight earned runs in four innings, the Braves decided to pull the plug and send him to Gwinnett. Nobody could have predicted that this offseason.
However, instead of pouting like a manchild and letting it alter his entire career path, Foltynewicz embraced it with a new motto which he wore on his wrist, “Don’t be a little bitch.” The 6’4″ right-hander spent over a month with the Stripers finding his footing and returned an entirely different pitcher.
The velocity wasn’t touching 100 as it did a year ago, but it was improved. More importantly, his slider – the pitch that made him an All-Star – found it’s sharp break, becoming his go-to option once again. Even his changeup looked miles better than it did before the demotion, and his two-seam fastball was absolutely filthy.
Since his return, Folty has not allowed more than four earned runs in a single outing, and he’s only surrendered three earned runs or more twice in eight starts. His record is 5-0, his ERA sits at 2.76, he’s striking out nearly a batter an inning, and the Braves have won all eight games in which he has pitched. And now, he toes the mound with the opportunity to clinch the division in Atlanta. Who would have thought?
The Braves host the Giants in Game 1 of a three-game set with their magic number sitting at one. A win will give the Braves their second consecutive NL East title, and despite a roller coaster 2019, it’s hard to want anyone out on the mound more than Folty – from a baseball and feel-good perspective. High Foltage is back and right when the Braves needed him most.