Mike Foltynewicz joins list of Atlanta's top pitching performances this century
Entering Friday night’s game, 339 MLB games had featured a game score of 90 or above since Mike Foltynewicz was born. The Braves right-hander posted No. 340 with a masterful 11-strikeout performance against the Washington Nationals, the division’s longstanding top dog.
In fact, Folty’s game score of 93 is the Braves’ fourth-best mark since the organization moved to Atlanta, tied with John Smoltz’s 1998 12-strikeout gem against the Mets and Kent Mercker’s 1994 no-hitter. The only higher scores before the turn of the millineum? Two Kevin Millwood starts in back-to-back seasons (1998 and 1999). Here’s how Foltynewicz’s performance stacks up to some of the franchise’s best single-game pitching performances since 2000, ranked by total game score.
(NOTE: This is merely one metric to help sort through the thousands of starts over the past 18-plus seasons. The Braves have seen 66 different starts with game scores over 80 since 2000 — from Hall of Famers to journeymen with varying degrees of difficulty due to competition and circumstance.)
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Outcome: The Hall of Famer posted a game score of 90 or better four times in his illustrious career, but his 2001 start against the lowly Brewers was utterly ridiculous. Posting a career-high 14 strikeouts in his age-35 season, Maddux helped Atlanta win 88 games and another division title in 2001.
He finished the campaign with a 3.05 ERA in 233 innings pitched, ranking fourth among all pitchers in wins above replacement, and somehow did not receive a single Cy Young vote.
Outcome: The 25-year-old matched up with a bona fide ace in his second consecutive start and did not disappoint. After out-pitching Chris Sale in Boston, Foltynewicz rose to the occasion against Stephen Strasburg and a team that posted a 19-7 record the previous month.
In the flame-throwing right-hander’s best career start, he struck out seven of the eight starting position players at least once — including multiple strikeouts for middle-of-the-lineup mashers Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon — and exited as one of baseball’s best starters in the season’s first half.
Outcome: Julio Teheran’s reputation as the Mets’ pitching nemesis is well-earned. He owns a 2.33 ERA through his first 143 career innings against Atlanta’s division rival. In a resurgent individual campaign for the young right-hander, this June outing turned out to be the best start of his career so far, though the rebuilding Braves finished nowhere near the playoff picture.
Outcome: Jair Jurrjens shut down his future team days before his first and only All-Star selection. Setting down a lineup that included future Brave Nick Markakis and future Hall of Famer and pinch-hitter Vlad Guerrero, Jurrjens’ career-best start ultimately did not propel Atlanta into the playoffs after an infamous September collapse ended with St. Louis stealing the wildcard on the regular season’s final day.
Outcome: Tim Hudson claims five of the top-20 game scores this century for Braves pitchers. When the veteran sinkerballer had it working, he pitched deep into games and posted some staggering lines. His three-hitter against a 72-win Reds team stands out as one of three games he pitched for Atlanta in which he finished with double-digit strikeouts and at least a 70 game score.
Outcome: Though Hudson finished this outing with four fewer strikeouts than his 2008 start against Cincinnati, it’s a better (and more efficient) performance, capping off a complete game shutout with nine fewer pitches. This was a much better opponent, too. The Brewers tied for the sixth-best offense in baseball that season with a lineup anchored by NL MVP Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, who finished third in that season’s MVP voting. And Hudson did not give an inch in an impressive early-season sweep.
Outcome: This was the year the former top pitching prospect officially arrived. Following two false starts in limited MLB action, Teheran’s road start in Pittsburgh highlighted a standout campaign (3.20 ERA, 3.4 WAR) in which he finished fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig, future teammate Shelby Miller and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
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Outcome: Shelby Miller’s lone season in Atlanta is best remembered for two things: The unlucky winless streak and, eventually, the trade that landed Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson.
Miller was the 2015 season’s poster child for “Pitching Records Do Not Matter” after he did not receive a winning decision in a franchise-record 24 consecutive starts. However, the young right-hander pitched well enough to entice the Arizona Diamondbacks to continue to bolster its pitching staff … and we all know how that panned out.
Outcome: Russ Ortiz’s first season in Atlanta coincided with his first All-Star nod and a fourth-place finish in the NL Cy Young voting behind Eric Gagne (yikes, voters), Jason Schmidt and Mark Prior, who deserved the award.
Ortiz finished the campaign with a 3.81 ERA and three wins above replacement, but he staggered in the postseason as Atlanta lost to the Cubs behind stellar pitching performances from Prior and Kerry Wood.
Outcome: Three different pitchers have posted an 87 game score for Atlanta since 2000: Medlen, Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson (twice), but Medlen gets the nod due to circumstance. Though he is the only pitcher on this list to allow a run in his respective start, the right-hander’s narrative and 12 K-0 BB line sealed the deal.
Medlen’s 2012 stretch run is one of the most memorable streaks in franchise history — he posted an 0.97 ERA over his final 12 starts of the season and Atlanta did not lose a single game with him on the mound. Medlen’s performance against Colorado helped the Braves post a 19-8 record in September to capture a wildcard berth. Shoutout, Sam Holbrook.