At­lanta’s ‘Folty’ tow­ers over the Car­di­nals, and the se­ries is tied at a game apiece ... Ex-jay Don­ald­son drives in win­ning run ... Soroka ex­pects ‘amaz­ing’ ex­pe­ri­ence

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS -

AT­LANTA — Mike Foltynewic­z wasn’t even part of the Braves ro­ta­tion when the 2019 sea­son be­gan — and he had some com­pany.

But the man his team­mates call Folty is here and deal­ing now, and as a re­sult, the Na­tional League East cham­pi­ons are back in the thick of their best-of-five NLDS.

The vet­eran right-han­der may have had an un­even sea­son — one that in­cluded a stint on the in­jured list and time in the mi­nors — but he was bril­liant in the Braves’

3-0 win over the

St. Louis Car­di­nals on Fri­day af­ter­noon at Suntrust Park.

Foltynewic­z pitched seven shutout in­nings, al­low­ing just three hits while strik­ing out seven in a shut­down ef­fort his team des­per­ately needed.

The starter was look­ing so good that with a pitch count of just 81, the sell­out crowd of 42,911 booed lustily when Adam Du­vall came in as a pinch-hit­ter in the bot­tom of the sev­enth, sig­nalling Foltynewic­z’s day was done.

Of course the boos rapidly turned into a stand­ing ova­tion when Du­vall rocked a two-run homer to give the Braves a wel­come 3-0 cush­ion that would stand as the mar­gin and a state­ment win,

“I heard 50,000 peo­ple let me know that they wanted Folty to stay in the game,” Du­vall said after­ward. “I wanted to put to­gether a good at-bat.”

He did that and then some, an im­por­tant com­ple­ment to the mas­tery of Foltynewic­z. who started Games 1 and 4 of last year’s ill-fated NLDS se­ries loss vs. the Los An­ge­les Dodgers and piled up a 7.50 ERA in just six in­nings.

With the Braves in clear need of a win to avoid head­ing to St. Louis and the prospect of elim­i­na­tion on Sun­day, how­ever, the 27-yearold was out­stand­ing. He be­came the first Braves pitcher to toss seven or more score­less play­off in­nings since Tom Glavine did so in Game 2 of the 2001 NLDS.

Quite sim­ply, with a siz­zling ef­fort to match the 37C tem­per­a­ture at first pitch, Foltynewic­z put the top­per on an ex­cel­lent turn­around year. The 2019 jour­ney to get to his first post-sea­son win has cer­tainly had its try­ing mo­ments, the most stark be­ing when he was op­tioned to triple-a Gwin­nett af­ter al­low­ing eight runs against the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als on June 22. Foltynewic­z didn’t re­turn to the ma­jors un­til Aug. 5, but con­tin­ued to trend ag­gres­sively in the right di­rec­tion. In the 11 starts since his re­turn, Foltynewic­z posted a 7-1 record with a 2.37 ERA.

“I was a long way from get­ting back to where I was,” Foltynewic­z said of his faded form when de­moted. “I just kind of kept my head down and kept push­ing and a lot of things worked out.

“I cleaned up my me­chan­ics a lit­tle bit. But to see where I am today, it was a lit­tle far-fetched. But at the same time, I kept that goal and dream that I’m go­ing to be with these guys no mat­ter what when the play­offs come around.”

Like Game 1 starter Dal­las Keuchel (who was a free agent un­til June), Foltynewic­z (in­jury) and sched­uled Game 3 starter Mike Soroka (mi­nors), the en­tire front end of the Braves ro­ta­tion wasn’t around to start the sea­son.

“It’s pretty cool to see for a guy that went through what he’s went through this year and where he’s come back from and the rough start that he had,” Braves man­ager Brian Snitker said of Foltynewic­z.

“And to see him step up like that is some­thing re­ally spe­cial.”

As bril­liant as Foltynewic­z was, Snitker said there was no se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion of send­ing out his starter for the eighth.

“He did ex­actly what we needed him to do and it was a hot day,” Snitker said. “It was an emo­tional day.”

BRINGER OF RAIN (& PAIN)

Fac­ing Car­di­nals ace Jack Fla­herty, the Braves were well aware of the need to get a run on the board early.

En­ter Josh Don­ald­son, who has been clutch for At­lanta since mid-sea­son and is well aware of the mag­ni­tude of the mo­ment. Don­ald­son de­liv­ered with a twoout, RBI sin­gle in the bot­tom of the first, a run that would stand up as the game-win­ner.

“We knew we had to get to him early, es­pe­cially af­ter los­ing the first game,” Don­ald­son said. “We knew we might not get much, but an early run was go­ing to be im­por­tant.”

It has been a solid start to the post-sea­son for Don­ald­son, whose in­field grounder re­sulted in a Game 1 RBI for an­other solid start, al­beit in a los­ing cause. De­fen­sively, the 2015 Amer­i­can League MVP has been sharp at third base.

As for scor­ing first, dur­ing the reg­u­lar-sea­son, the Braves were 75-26 when scor­ing first, but none were as im­por­tant as this one.

“Early is im­por­tant against a guy like that,” Braves left fielder, Nick Markakis said. “He was hit­ting his spots. We knew he was go­ing to be tough.”

SHOW­TIME FOR SOROKA

Game 3 Sun­day in St. Louis is a huge mo­ment for 22-year-old Cana­dian Soroka, the lat­est in a sea­son that al­ready has in­cluded a trip to the all-star game.

“It’s go­ing to be amaz­ing,” Soroka told the Toronto Sun. “It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve never had. You pitch in a lot of big tour­na­ments and all this kind of stuff com­ing up, but this is it. This is why you play to try to win a se­ries.

“Now that you are there it’s a lit­tle bit hard to fathom at first, but a lot of us have taken the ap­proach that we have to make it seem like any other start.”

GAME ON

– Though the Braves didn’t ex­actly crush Fla­herty, they made the Car­di­nals pitcher work all af­ter­noon, scat­ter­ing eight hits over his seven in­nings. Fla­herty, who was dom­i­nant down the stretch for the Cards, threw 117 pitches.

– Even with the most dom­i­nant per­for­mance by the Braves, the Cards man­aged to get the ty­ing run to the plate with one out in the ninth and two run­ners on for Yadier Molina. But the Cards catcher struck out, and sec­ond base­man Kolten Wong also struck out to end the game.

To see where I am today, it was a lit­tle far-fetched.” at­lanta pitcher Mike Foltynewic­z, who spent time on the IL and in the mi­nors this sea­son

Todd KIRK­LAND/GETTY IM­AGES

At­lanta Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewic­z cel­e­brates af­ter his team’s 3-0 win over the St. Louis Car­di­nals yes­ter­day. ‘Folty’ threw seven shutout in­nings.

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