Finally, Braves baseball is back. The lengthy four-month wait is over, and the days of intrasquad scrimmages are behind us. Today, Atlanta had their first exhibition game since the restart against the Miami Marlins — the first of two contests between the teams before their respective Opening Days on Friday. And let’s just say, the Braves started the year with some fireworks.
The matchup pitted Mike Foltynewicz against Jose Urena. Folty, the Braves enigmatic right-hander, started well, allowing just one baserunner in the first two innings. However, the third frame began with back-to-back-to-back home runs for the Fish. Folty was able to bounce back with a quick fourth inning, but loaded the bases in the fifth and allowed three more runs before Brian Snitker pulled the plug, bringing in Josh Tomlin.
His final line read: 4.1 innings, 9 hits, 6 earned runs, no walks, and four strikeouts
Folty’s offspeed stuff looked a little flat at times, which resulted in some of the damage. However, that can be expected so early in the season on a wet night. The most discouraging aspect of his performance was his velocity, which sat in the high-80s all night.
Now, in his defense, most of these fastballs looked like two-seamers, and it’s possible he was taking things a bit easy in his last start before the regular season. However, the fact that he rarely broke 90 throughout the night was a cause for concern, and Folty’s explanation wasn’t exactly inspiring.
more Snitker on Folty:
"He said he felt good, and I’ll take him at that. But hopefully the next outing… He had the short outing (rain-shortened last start), had to finish up in the cage. I’ll trust him that he feels good. We’ll see.”
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) July 22, 2020
That’s all that was said about his velocity tonight. Hopefully, this isn’t a sign of things to come, but we’ll know a lot more in less than a week when Foltynewicz takes the mound in his first outing of the regular season.
The starting bats were pretty quiet for the most part. Marcell Ozuna had the first RBI with a long double off the left-field wall, as he continues to look more ready for the start of the season. Ronald Acuña roped a single and walked in his three at-bats, and Dansby Swanson had a single and line-out in his two plate appearances.
In relief, Josh Tomlin was nearly flawless. He cleaned up Folty’s mess in the fifth and finished two innings of work without allowing a single run and just two hits. Tyler Maztek came in after him and continued his string of solid outings in Spring Training, recording two outs without a hit, including one strikeout. Chris Rusin pitched the eighth, and it didn’t go as smoothly. He walked the first batter he faced, which is always a no-no, then gave up two hits, leading to two runs and a seven-run lead for the Fish. However, the second-string unit didn’t go down without a fight.
The Braves scored eight runs in the eighth, starting with an RBI single from Freddie Freeman. An infield single by the 19-year-old prospect, Michael Harris, cut the lead to five, and a wild pitch added another to the Braves total. Culberson shrunk the lead to one with a bases-clearing double, and perhaps the best moment of the night came from the Braves #2 prospect, Drew Waters, who doubled in Culberson to tie the game. Adam Duvall would then single, giving the Braves their first lead, but it wouldn’t last long.
Chad Sobotka, who is vying for one of the final bullpen spots, came in to close the game. He surrendered a mammoth home run to Jesus Sanchez that tied the contest at nine but was able to end the frame with back-to-back strikeouts.
The game couldn’t end in a better fashion, though. With two outs in the ninth, the Braves’ newest addition to the lineup, Matt Adams, launched a home run into the empty Chop House, sending the Braves home winners. It looked all too familiar from year’s past, especially against the Marlins, and is the type of game that should have everyone salivating for Opening Day on Friday.
All-in-all, it wasn’t all great for the Braves. Folty, who they need to have a bounce-back campaign, looked like a shell of himself, but at least we know the fight isn’t gone. If this team is going to relinquish their NL East crown, someone will have to take it from them.