The Braves don’t have much to play for at this point. Their portion of the playoff picture is locked down, they blew their chance for 100 wins with a 4-2 defeat to the Mets last night, and their previous win against the Royals already secured the team’s best record since 2003. This Braves team is already tenth on the list of all-time Braves teams with the most wins (eighth on the list of all-time Atlanta Braves teams), and even if they win both remaining games, they’ll only leapfrog the 1992 squad to move up one spot in those rankings.
So, it is what it is. This game is a tune-up, a yielding to the demands of the baseball calendar. Dallas Keuchel’s tune-up did not go particularly well last night; Mike Foltynewicz is slated to do the same tonight, albeit with aspirations of better outcomes (perhaps, as outcomes don’t matter too much at this point).
On the season, Foltynewicz has battled back since returning from Triple-A Gwinnett to post an aggregate 100 ERA-, 111 FIP-, and 108 xFIP-. His 2019, of course, has been a tale of two Foltys. The pre-demotion version was bad and unlucky (6.16 FIP, 5.26 xFIP, 20.5 percent HR/FB, wOBA-against of .369 versus xwOBA of .347, strand rate nearly as low as 60 percent); the post-demotion version has been much better and much luckier (3.47 FIP, 4.26 xFIP, 9.3 percent HR/FB, wOBA-against of .265 versus xwOBA of .298, strand rate of nearly 85 percent). The result, therefore, is a somewhat-balanced overall seasonal line (no real wOBA-xwOBA gap, ERA-FIP-xFIP more or less in alignment, a HR/FB very close to league average), but this balance can’t do much to salvage the overall damage that pre-demotion Folty had on overall Folty’s seasonal line.
You can draw a further distinction in Foltynewicz’ season by looking at his last four (or, if you prefer, last six) starts. His last four outings have all been relatively strong, and he’s yielded just two runs in four starts. (The first of those, against the Blue Jays, had a gross 2/3 K/BB ratio, but he didn’t allow any homers.) His most recent start was arguably his best of the year, an eight-inning bamboozling of the Giants (7/1 K/BB ratio) that helped the Braves coast to a division-clinching victory. Before his demotion, Foltynewicz really only had two or three decent starts in 11 tries; he’s been a boon to his team in five of his last six outings.
What kicked off that good run was a good showing against the Mets, the first time Foltynewicz had faced them in 2019. He allowed just a solo homer, two walks, and a two-out double in the outing with seven strikeouts... it’s up to you to decide whether giving up the homer to mound opponent Jacob deGrom makes the start better or worse. (The Braves would end up winning 2-1 in 14 innings, well after Foltynewicz had completed his seven.)
The Mets, too, don’t have much to play for. They’re locked into third place, and while they’re in a clump of four teams with similar records MLB-wide, it’s doubtful that any of those teams are going to tank the last two games just to go from the 19th draft position to the 16th. Still, that didn’t stop them from hammering Dallas Keuchel last night, and they’ll try to extend the same non-courtesy to Mike Foltynewicz. The depleted Braves lineup was held in check by Marcus Stroman on Friday, and Steven Matz will attempt to do so again tonight.
Matz has had a weird and somewhat unlucky year (104 ERA-, 105 FIP-, 97 xFIP-). He was okay to start the year, terrible in June, and really good in July and August, before slowing down quite a bit over the past month. He allowed just 18 runs in July and August, with five of them coming in one start, and has already allowed 15 runs in September. He’s been particularly shelled in his last two outings, allowing 13 total runs and two homers in both games, the first time he’s had a multi-homer outing since June.
The Braves have seen a lot of Matz this year. He beat them in April, got clobbered by them in June, was forced out of a start early after allowing two runs later in June, and stifled them again in August. Maybe his recent trend of allowing longballs continues, and we get to actually watch the Braves put on a power display for the first time in a while: the Braves only have 10 homers in their last two weeks of play (only four teams have fewer), and only four in their last week (only four teams have fewer).
Atlanta Braves @ New York Mets
Saturday, September 28, 2019
7:15 pm EDT
Citi Field, Flushing, New York, NY
TV: FOX, MLB.tv
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, Rock 100.5, Braves Radio Network, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM
XM Radio: XM Streaming 841