Game 1 went about as poorly for the Braves and Mike Foltynewicz as anyone could have imagined.
It started early, as Joc Pederson skied a home-run just over the center field wall on an 0-2 pitch to lead off the game for the Dodgers. That kind of became the theme in this one: Los Angeles’s ability to create runs out of nowhere with power.
The real gut punch came in the second inning, when an 0-2 count with two outs and nobody on turned into a three-run inning. The Dodgers only needed one hit too, as Foltynewicz proceeded to hit Joc Peterson, walk Justin Turner and give up a mammoth shot to Max Muncy.
It was early, but there was already a feeling that the Braves were going to be facing Kershaw down 1-0 in the series. Folty would exit the game after just two innings, allowing four earned runs. Sean Newcomb relieved him and pitched two scoreless innings, which leaves him out of the question for a possible Game 3 start. However, his success so far this season against Los Angeles might put him in the running to start Game 4, along with Julio Teheran, if the Braves can make it there.
Another candidate for that start would be Mike Foltynewicz once again. The Braves ace only threw 50 pitches in his first postseason start, making him readily available later in the series. A smart move by manager Brian Snitker, because if the Braves are going to advance to their first NLCS since 2001, they need Folty to be the pitcher he has been the entire season.
Given the fact he nearly no-hit the Dodgers earlier this year and his ability to neutralize some of the left-handed power they have, Newcomb would have been a nice option to start a game in this series. With that being said, there’s no way he should start over Foltynewicz.
At this point in the Braves rebuild, the only pitcher who has shown legitimate signs of being a frontline starter is Folty. In 183 innings pitched this year; batters are hitting .195; he’s struck out 202 and has a sub-three ERA.
What about the Dodgers powerful left-handed batters that fared so well in Game 1? Foltynewicz has held lefties to a .183 batting average this season. He’s been dominant no matter day or night, lefties or righties, home or away over the course of 162 games. If anyone has earned the right to have a hiccup, it’s Folty.
Pitching in the postseason is a whole different beast. Ask Clayton Kershaw, who we will get to see first-hand tonight. The future Hall-of-Famer carries a 4.35 ERA in 24 postseason appearances despite having a 2.39 career ERA in the regular season. It’s taken him years to get acclimated to the heat that comes with pitching the playoffs, but you go down with your studs. Foltynewicz is the best pitcher in the Braves organization, and whether a possible Game 4 is for elimination or advancement, he should be towing the mound at SunTrust Park.