If you type “rule the roost” into ye olde Google, the corresponding dictionary widget defines this particular idiom as: “to be in complete control.” There’s no pithier way to describe the outing that Mike Foltynewicz put together in Game 2 of the NLDS than that: he dominated the Cardinals for seven innings, turning in one of the best starts of his career and helping his team even the series at one game apiece.
The Braves scored first and held a slim lead for most of the game, but the contest was all Foltynewicz, all the time. He allowed just four hits, all singles, and issued zero free passes. The only time a runner even reached second against the Atlanta right-hander was in the second inning, when a two-out error from Ozzie Albies allowed Paul DeJong to reach first base safely. He successfully navigated the St. Louis batting order a third time, ending his seventh inning of work with an exclamation point: a double play ball off the bat of the speedy Kolten Wong, who represented the go-ahead run at the time. This wasn’t the amoeba slider Foltynewicz of earlier this season; far from it! His slider was the out pitch for all seven of his strikeouts, felling Cardinal after Cardinal. It wasn’t just about strikeouts, either, as the furthest ball the Cardinals hit off of him went just 366 feet and settled harmlessly into the glove of Ronald Acuña Jr. to lead off the seventh inning. You can’t say enough great things about Foltynewicz and his outing tonight, but you can certainly try: I cede the floor to you all in that regard.
In his superb start, Foltynewicz stole the thunder of one Jack Flaherty, the best MLB pitcher of the past two months. Flaherty, to his credit, was about as advertised. He held the Braves to three runs in seven frames and notched eight strikeouts while ceding just one base on balls. Atlanta’s offense wasn’t quite as bamboozled by him as Flaherty’s offense was by Foltynewicz, but the right-hander worked out of trouble all the same... most of the time.
The times when he didn’t, of course, were the difference in the game. One of them came early on. Ozzie Albies legged out an infield hit with one out in the first, moved to second on a wild pitch, and then to third on Freddie Freeman’s groundout. On a 2-1 count, Flaherty left a two-seamer a little too high and Josh Donaldson was able to line it into left field for a run-scoring single. The Braves once again had a very early lead. This time, though, they’d hold it.
The middle innings of this game flew by, as Foltynewicz and Flaherty traded zeroes and the Braves nursed their lead. The Braves looked like they might tack another run or two on in the fourth, as Nick Markakis and Matt Joyce notched back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with none out. But, not so much: Brian McCann popped out, and the Braves made a tactical blunder immediately thereafter, as they ran themselves into a double play when Dansby Swanson struck out swinging at ball four and Nick Markakis was eventually cut down trying to return to third base on a botched steal attempt. It’s easier (but also worse) to just watch this:
Not how we drew it up, but we'll take it! pic.twitter.com/kotHYUsQhk— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) October 4, 2019
No worries, though — Foltynewicz just went right back to work. The sixth represented a potential problem: the Cardinals would be seeing the big right-hander’s stuff for a third time. The problem, in this case, was only theoretical, as Foltynewicz retired the top of their order on just seven pitches. The seventh was only marginally scarier: Yadier Molina notched a one-out single, and then Wong hit a ball over 105 mph... but right at Ozzie Albies, who helped Foltynewicz end his night on a very positive by starting a 4-6-3 twin killing.
It’s 2019, so what thrilling victory would be complete without a dinger? Adam Duvall, pinch-hitting against Flaherty in the seventh without the platoon advantage, obliged in a big way:
Duvall’s no-doubter was the best-hit ball, and only barrel for either team, of the game. I’m not sure using him against Flaherty was the button I would have pushed, but it was the one Brian Snitker fingered in the bottom of the seventh, and it paid off in spades.
Max Fried came on for the eighth and carved up the Cardinals again. He struck out the first two batters he faced, allowed a dunker to pinch-hitter Jose Martinez, and let Acuña snag a well-hit liner by Dexter Fowler for the third out. The Braves failed to get anything going against Tyler Webb in the bottom of the inning, and then it was on to the ninth, where Mark Melancon relieved Fried.
Melancon had an absolutely ghastly Game 1, and there was a point where Game 2 didn’t seem much better: he fell behind 3-0 on Tommy Edman before retiring him on a grounder, and then allowed back-to-back singles to bring the tying run to the plate. But, all’s well that ends well, as he struck out Molina and Wong to end the game and knot the NLDS at one game each. The Braves now head to St. Louis, where Mike Soroka will take the hill in search of a series lead on Sunday.