For six-plus innings, Friday’s match-up between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals operated as the perfect example of a pitcher’s duel. Then, the door (finally) opened for the home team in the bottom of the seventh and that was all Mike Foltynewicz would need to lead the Braves to a 4-0 victory.
Foltynewicz allowed a first-inning single to Nationals superstar Bryce Harper before quickly escaping the opening frame by inducing a strikeout and a groundout. From there, it was thorough domination from the powerful right-hander.
Washington was unable to muster any kind of offensive threat. In fact, Foltynewicz set down 19 consecutive batters after the Harper single in the first and that was more then enough to keep the Braves within striking distance.
While Atlanta’s offense wasn’t all that much better than Washington’s over the first six full frames, the bats arrived right on time in the seventh. Nick Markakis and Kurt Suzuki opened the inning with back-to-back singles and Markakis scored the game’s first run after Johan Camargo reached on an error, courtesy of former Braves first baseman Matt Adams.
Then, the biggest swing of the night came from Dansby Swanson. Following a strikeout by Preston Tucker to place a potentially explosive inning in some peril, Swanson hammered a Strasburg offering over the left field wall and, with haste, Atlanta suddenly held a 4-0 lead with only six outs to secure for victory.
Foltynewicz saw his streak of perfection end when he issued a lead-off walk in the eighth but that did not prove costly. On cue, he induced a fielder’s choice, picked off the only base-runner seconds later, and notched a strikeout to conclude his eighth inning of shutout baseball.
That breezy experience in the eighth provided a runway for Foltynewicz to pursue a complete game shutout in the ninth inning, entering the final frame with only 93 pitches. While he wasn’t able to produce a perfect, 1-2-3 inning, Foltynewicz slammed the door and, somewhat fittingly, it was Harper that was the final victim for the 27th out.
All told, the 26-year-old navigated nine near-flawless innings while allowing only three base-runners. He struck out 11 batters with one walk and, in general, Foltynewicz was thoroughly dominant against a quality offense in opposition of an All-Star pitcher from a division rival.
Friday’s victory will be remembered almost chiefly for Mike Foltynewicz’s effort, and it doubled as both the first complete game for the Braves since Julio Teheran on June 19, 2016 and his first in the Major Leagues. The Braves and Nationals will square off again on Saturday but, on this night, it was all about the flame-throwing right-hander and a spectacular showing.