Behind improving 'pen, Braves seek series win over Padres
Perhaps the Atlanta Braves' bullpen woes are subsiding, at least for the time being.
Since the relief staff had a meltdown last Saturday, the bullpen has pitched well. Over the first three games of the four-game series against the visiting San Diego Padres that concludes Thursday afternoon, Atlanta relievers have thrown a total of seven scoreless innings to help the Braves post two victories.
The bullpen threw two scoreless frames in relief of starter Max Fried on Wednesday in Atlanta's 5-1 win. The big moment came in the eighth when veteran right-hander Josh Tomlin entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs -- all courtesy of rookie Jacob Webb -- and retired the next three batters.
Tomlin got a forceout at the plate after a grounder to the mound, then struck out Manny Machado and Hunter Renfroe to end the inning.
"We always have the most confidence in them," Atlanta rookie starter Mike Soroka said of the bullpen after his Monday win. "We've seen what all these guys did last year. (Despite) what's happened the last couple of weeks, they're in there, doing their jobs, working hard every day to get better and make sure that door does get shut every single day."
Tomlin has retired Machado -- who entered the series 5-for-8 against him -- twice in the series.
"No situation fazes him," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said of Tomlin. "He's a gutsy guy. He keeps making pitches. If they hit him, they hit him. He's not going to give in. He's going to keep trying to make his pitches."
The Braves even got an inning of scoreless relief from A.J. Minter on Wednesday. The left-hander gave up a big lead on Saturday and got in trouble on Sunday before being bailed out. Minter lowered his ERA from 9.35 to 8.38 on Wednesday.
In the series finale Thursday, Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (0-0, 6.00 ERA) will oppose San Diego left-hander Matt Strahm (0-2, 3.04). It will be the second start of the season for Foltynewicz. Strahm had his start moved back a day in favor of 2016 first-round draft choice Cal Quantrill, who made his major league debut on Wednesday.
Foltynewicz began the season on the injured list because of a bone spur in his right elbow. The 2018 All-Star received mixed reviews for his first start, against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday. He worked six innings and allowed four runs while striking out five in a game the Braves lost 9-5.
This will be the fourth career start for Foltynewicz against the Padres. He's 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 16 2/3 innings vs. San Diego. He lost his last start to the Padres on June 6, 2018, despite allowing only two runs in five innings.
Strahm struggled in his first start of the year, allowing five runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but since then, he has been outstanding.
Over the past four outings, Strahm has allowed a total of five runs (four earned) over 24 innings. The best was an eight-inning start against the Cincinnati Reds that saw him allow one run on two hits. In his latest outing, Strahm gave up two runs over six innings and received no decision in San Diego's 4-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Friday.
"I've learned as a reliever, so that's where I've just decided to keep the same mentality of, 'It's just that batter,' " Strahm said. "If it happens to be 18 to 25 batters that day, it's 18 to 25 batters. But every batter I face, it's as if I'm out of the bullpen. I'm going to come at you. I'm going to get you now."
The Thursday game will be Strahm's fourth appearance and third career start against the Braves. In six total innings in 2018, he has a 1.50 ERA with seven strikeouts.
--Field Level Media
Updated May 2, 2019