The Atlanta Braves were back in action on Saturday afternoon as they continue to get their 2020 season underway with Spring Training baseball. Today a Tampa Bay Rays split squad came to visit newly-minted CoolToday Park in North Port.
Mike Foltynewicz drew the start for Atlanta. Foltynewicz has had some trouble to begin his spring, as he came into action today allowing four earned runs in 3 1⁄3 innings. However, it is not wise to put any stock into Spring Training stats as they are essentially useless predictors.
Today proved that point as Foltynewicz navigated the Rays lineup with ease. His only trouble came in the form of two walks, one hit, and two hit batters over 3 2⁄3 innings of work. His outs in the first inning came on the ground and in the air, but his swing-and-miss stuff really shined in the second and third innings.
The big righthander struck out the side during the second and added two more whiffs in the third as he piled up six strikeouts total on the day, allowing no Tampa Bay batters to cross the plate.
Neither team was able to get anything going on offense as the squads combined to muster just three hits through six innings of action.
Grant Dayton and Mark Melancon followed Folty with 2 1⁄3 clean innings, combining for two strikeouts to boot.
The first run of the game came in the top of the seventh inning against A.J. Minter in his Spring Training debut. After a walk to Vidal Brujan, catcher Jonathan Morales committed a two-base error on a pickoff throw to move Brujan around to third, and the Rays finally got their second hit at an inopportune time for the Braves thanks to a Wander Franco single that dumped into shallow right field.
The Braves struggled offensively with Freddie Freeman and Adeiny Hechavarria having the only hits of the day for Atlanta through the first eight innings. Ender Inciarte, Rafael Ortega and Alex Jackson all made their way on base with walks, but the team never could string anything together to scratch across a run. At one point, after back-to-back walks, Ozzie Albies lined into a triple play.
Phil Pfeifer came in after Minter to pitch 1 1⁄3 strong innings in which he had to work around a double.
Something interesting that happened in this game were the defensive alignments that the Rays were trying out. At different points, and most notably against Ozzie Albies, they would move a player into the outfield and go with a four man group out there with a big shift on the infield. Albies thought about a bunt, but ended up swinging through a ball for a strikeout eventually.
Chad Sobotka found his way into the game for the top of the ninth inning and made quick work of the Rays in his fourth inning of work this spring.
The last call for Atlanta came in the bottom of the ninth starting off with Cristian Pache’s first trip to the plate of the day. He obliged with a lead-off triple into the left center gap to get the Braves in business. Yangervis Solarte then hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game up at one.
Shortly after, Drew Waters picked up a single to center field, but Ortega then popped out to second base to end the game in a tie.
The Braves will be back in action on Monday as they face off against the Red Sox for the second time in four days.