Smith's big hit plenty for strong Folty vs. Giants
By Mark Bowman and Chris Haft
ATLANTA -- Mallex Smith's three-run triple blemished Jeff Samardzija's shortest start of the season and provided Mike Foltynewicz sufficient support as the Braves claimed a 5-3 win over the Giants on Monday afternoon.
Smith's second-inning triple accounted for three of the five runs -- four earned -- Samardzija surrendered while needing 93 pitches to complete five innings. Brandon Belt's second-inning homer accounted for the only run Foltynewicz allowed while limiting the Giants to three hits over six-plus innings.
The Giants had won 15 of their previous 17 games, but they were facing a challenge having arrived in Atlanta at approximately 1 a.m. ET, 12 hours before the opener of this four-game series.
"Everything isn't always ideal," Samardzija said. "So you have to find a way to overcome it and play a little better."
Arodys Vizcaino allowed two runs (one earned) in the ninth before escaping the threat, as the Braves have won three of four home games since entering Friday with a 2-20 record at Turner Field.
"We've been in a lot of games," Smith said. "One crucial hit here or there and we'd have been winning. We're getting it now. Everybody is confident. We're still confident before and we're still confident now. We've just got to continue to work together."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Clutch clear:Nick Markakis' second-inning double put runners at second and third base before Samardzija recorded his first out. Still, the Giants hurler was in position to escape unscathed until Smith drilled his two-out, three-run triple into the left-center-field gap to increase his batting average with runners in scoring position to .407 (11-for-27) and give the Braves a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Atlanta entered the game hitting .214 (9-for-42) with the bases loaded.
Slim pickings: Once Atlanta established its 5-1 lead, Foltynewicz gave the Giants one slim chance to make matters close. With two outs in the fifth inning, he yielded Joe Panik's single and hit Matt Duffy with a pitch. The lukewarm rally fizzled as Foltynewicz struck out Belt on five pitches. Belt had homered in the second inning for the game's first run.
"Obviously, he's got good stuff," Duffy said of Foltynewicz. "... It wasn't necessarily on the corners -- he was on the corners -- but when he was out of the corners I felt like he could keep it down. Then after the first time through the order, he started mixing it a lot more and going to his secondary stuff a little more and just kept us off-balance."
Poise enhances potential: Foltynewicz worked around a leadoff walk in the first inning and retired 14 of the next 15 batters he faced after surrendering Belt's home run. The young right-hander felt he rushed himself before hitting Duffy with a 96 mph fastball. But he commanded his breaking pitches with great regularity and showed more poise than he had last year and when he surrendered three home runs in the first inning of his May 3 season debut against the Mets.
"He kind of got into rhythm, and when things got rough, he didn't go harder," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It's almost like he went softer. Like I said, I thought the total package by him today was as good as I've seen."
Stratton makes debut: Giants rookie right-hander Chris Stratton made a rewarding Major League debut, striking out two batters while pitching a perfect ninth inning.
"I wasn't as nervous as I thought I was going to be," said Stratton, a Nashville, Tenn., resident who had about 20 relatives and friends watching. "... It was a great experience, something I'll never forget."
Teaming with catcher Trevor Brown, a Minor League teammate, eased Stratton further.
"It was nice having a familiar face back there," Stratton said.
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Smith became the seventh Braves player within the past 10 seasons to record a bases-loaded triple. The others were Chipper Jones (2007), Willie Harris ('07), Rick Ankiel (2010), Michael Bourn (2012), Tommy La Stella (2014) and Jace Peterson (2015).
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: April 29-30 marked the last time the Giants lost back-to-back road games. They'll try to avoid that fate in Tuesday's rematch against the Braves that begins at 4:10 p.m. PT. Jake Peavy will observe his 35th birthday by starting for the Giants. He's 0-2 with a 3.44 ERA in three career starts here.
Braves: Atlanta will counter with Matt Wisler, who has posted a 2.25 ERA over his first five May starts. Wisler has pitched into the seventh inning in five of his past seven starts. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. ET.