Braves seek to salvage series finale vs. Red Sox
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves lost the first two games of their interleague series in Boston at the end of May and faced Red Sox ace Chris Sale in the final game, making their chances of avoiding a sweep seem fairly bleak.
Mike Foltynewicz, though, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning while outpitching Sale and now the right-hander takes the mound against the Red Sox on Wednesday, this time at SunTrust Park, again trying to help the Braves avoid a sweep.
Boston (96-44) improved its interleague record to a major league-best 13-3 with a 5-1 victory Tuesday night and dropped the Braves (76-62) to 8-11 against the American League.
The Braves have won only one interleague series in Atlanta since 2014 and their lead in the National League East is down to three games with Philadelphia’s victory in Miami.
Sale doesn’t return from a stint on the disabled list until next week and the AL East-leading Red Sox will call on right-hander Hector Velazquez for the series finale against the Braves.
Velazquez (7-2, 3.24 ERA) has made six starts to go with his 33 relief appearances, but hasn’t gone as long as five innings since April. His last start came Aug. 24 at Tampa and he gave up eight runs (three earned) in 2 2/3 innings.
Foltynewicz (10-9, 2.80 ERA) will be the starting pitcher expected to have the upper hand this time.
Given an early lead thanks to a three-run homer by catcher Tyler Flowers, Foltynewicz dominated the Red Sox at Fenway Park three months ago, allowing three hits and a run over seven innings while striking out seven and walking one.
“He was real efficient with his pitches and stayed on the attack,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after that game. “I just loved how he stayed after it. He was throwing a lot of strikes. His stuff was really good.”
Foltynewicz, who made the All-Star Game for the first time, allowed a total of five earned runs in his first five starts of August before giving up five runs (four earned) in a home loss to the Cubs to end the month.
A questionable balk victimized Foltynewicz in the second inning and then he allowed a two-run pinch homer in the sixth.
The balk was called when Foltnewicz made a slight flinch, apparently as he spit.
“Who knows what you really do out there?” Foltynewicz said. “You’re just in the zone. You can do a bunch of different habits and stuff. I just basically hawked a loogie.”
Velazquez made two relief appearances against the Braves in May, allowing five hits and one run over 2 2/3 innings while walking two and striking out two.
Velazquez’s last appearance was against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, when he gave up a run on two hits in an inning of relief.
“We’ll see how long Hector goes,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “It might be similar to (Monday).”
Nathan Eovaldi was pulled after 3 1/3 innings in the series opener and the Red Sox totaled eight pitchers in the 8-2 victory.
The Boston rotation will be back more to normal when David Price, hit by a comebacker last week, starts against Houston at Fenway Park on Friday and Sale (shoulder strain) comes off the disabled list in the likely role of an “opener” for now next week.
Sale, who threw a bullpen Tuesday, is expected to pitch either in the Toronto series or against the New York Mets, although with a limited pitch count.
“He’ll probably throw another (bullpen) in three more days and then we go from there,” Cora said. “Not sure if he’ll be the ‘opener’ but looks like next homestand.”
Sale is 12-4 with a 1.97 ERA and Price is 14-6 with a 3.60 ERA.