Three Cuts: Braves’ barrage of homers, Foltynewicz’s next task, Swanson in Futures Game
Taking three cuts as the Braves head into the All-Star Break after a barrage of home runs, Mike Foltynewicz reached his epic potential for a day, A.J. Pierzynski reached a milestone and Dansby Swanson was on display in the Futures Game.
Remember when the Braves went 15 games without a home run? The long ball is coming in bunches now, as they’ve hit 17 in the last nine games — July 1-10 — which was as many as they had in the previous 31 games — May 28-June 30.
It’s no surprise given his post-June 1 batting average of .335 and a collective 25 extra-bats hits in that span that Freddie Freeman is tied for the Braves’ lead with three homers in that span. Nick Markakis, though?
That’s a stunner.
He hit a pair of dingers in Thursday’s 11-inning win over the Cubs — his first multi-home run game since 2008 — then added another Friday against the White Sox’s Chris Sale. Back in his Orioles days, Markakis faced Sale 14 times, and while he found success (a .363 average), a double in 2012 was the thing only thing he’d supplied beyond singles.
Over the last two seasons since becoming a Brave, Markakis has 948 at-bats and just eight homers. Only eight players have more trips to the plate in that span, and just one of them, Alcides Escobar, has fewer HRs than the Atlanta right fielder, with four in 978 ABs. So, basically, in all of MLB, there’s only one every day player who’s less likely to do what Markakis did to Sale, the presumed American League All-Star Game starter — and he did it twice.
— FOX Sports South (@FOXSportsSouth) July 9, 2016
This recent trend of homers hasn’t changed Atlanta’s standing as its 56 collective HRs keeping it in the MLB basement by 22, and its 46 off the league average of 102. But over the last 10 games, the Braves have gone deep 17 times, with only the Mets (24) and Nationals (22) hitting more and nine players have contributed a homer in that span.
With three of Sale and two more off another All-Star in fellow White Sox starter Jose Quintana, it’s an impressive run, and one the Braves will need to continue to avoid a dubious note to the season.
Due to that April drought, and in a show of just how long a drought it was, they are currently on pace for 99 home runs, one less than a year ago, and may still challenge for the fewest since 1988’s 96.
Along with a career-high 10 strikeouts in Sunday’s 2-0 win over the White Sox, Mike Foltynewicz — a product of Minooka, Ill., who had plenty of family and friends on hand at U.S. Cellular Field — allowed five hits in seven scoreless innings and didn’t allow a walk over 106 pitches.
It resulted in the 24-year-old’s first win since beating the Giants on May 30, and a game score of 77, which not only bested the 72 he had on May 14 against the Royals — a game in which Foltynewicz threw eight scoreless innings with four Ks — but also his 75 from May 24, 2005 — that was seven strikeouts with three hits allowed and one run over 7 2/3.
This was, without question, Foltynewicz at his finest — but the true feat will come in how he follows it up.
A special thanks to my family & friends for making the trip to the park today! I got to say hi to a few, but thank you to everyone who came!
— Mike Foltynewicz (@Folty25) July 10, 2016
A year ago, after firing that 75, which came vs. the Brewers, he was mired in a run of game scores of 38, 26 and 25, and was relegated to the bullpen. The next time out after that 72 this year vs. Kansas City, he had a 26 in allowing five earned runs in three innings against the Pirates.
Interim manager Brian Snitker told reporters Sunday that the post-break rotation would be determined by whether Julio Teheran gets into Tuesday’s All-Star Game. But with the first three games back vs. Colorado — against a Rockies offense that is third in the majors with a team average of .272 and is 12th with 111 home runs — Snitker may be best served in delay Foltynewicz’s next outing until the second series of the second half.
That would be with the Reds, who are tied with Atlanta for the majors’ lowest average (.237), and against whose current lineup, Foltynewicz has a .296 BA. Yes, that game would be in the bandbox known as the Great American Ball Park, but the Rockies, are hitting a stout .474 vs. the righty.
Growth is eventually going to mean Foltynewicz produces no matter who the competition is, but at this point in his development, putting him in position to ensure consecutive quality starts is just as key.
Dansby Swanson headed to San Diego on fire, hitting .361 with four doubles, a triple, and a homer and nine RBI for Double-A Mississippi. On a national stage representing the Braves in the Futures Game on Sunday night, Swanson went 0 for 3 with a strikeout in plate appearances before he exited in the sixth inning.
The Braves’ top-ranked prospect struck on three pitches against Alex Reyes in his first at-bat — punctuated by a absolutely filthy curveball — grounded out into a force out in his second and finally flied out to right in his final chance.
So he didn’t make a major impact at the plate, but Swanson gave the Braves the distinction of having all three of their top prospects having played in the Futures Game. Second baseman Ozzie Albies, Atlanta’s third-ranked farm hand, played last year in Cincinnati, as did left-handed pitcher Sean Newcomb, though he was still a part of the Angels organization then.
Swanson also managed to show his self to be an innovator at Petco Park, adding an accessory to his Team USA uniform …
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His book, ‘Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,’ is out now, and ‘The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners’ will be released Nov. 1, 2016.
— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) July 10, 2016