Max Scherzer won eight of his final nine decisions for the Washington Nationals last season en route to his second straight National League Cy Young Award and started this year with six scoreless innings in a victory at Cincinnati.
Mike Foltynewicz lost his last seven starts for the Atlanta Braves a year ago and will take an eight-start winless streak into Wednesday’s matchup with Scherzer and the Nationals at SunTrust Park.
The only good news for the Braves is that the Scherzer’s lone loss after June 21 last season came against Atlanta, when the right-hander uncharacteristically gave up six walks and seven runs during a September game in Washington.
The Braves handed the Nationals their first loss of this season on Tuesday, winning 13-6, and can post a series victory by solving Scherzer again.
Scherzer (1-0, 0.00 ERA), though, was 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in three starts at Atlanta last season, and dominated the Reds in Cincinnati on Friday in the delayed opener, striking out 10 while giving up five hits and a walk over six innings in the 2-0 victory.
“The biggest thing for me is not becoming a fan. I have to manage the game,” said Washington’s Dave Martinez after getting a victory in his managerial debut. “It was hard not to be a fan of Scherzer.”
Seven of Scherzer’s strikeouts, which tied the record for a Nationals pitcher in an opener, came in a row from the second inning into the fourth.
“Really, it was just a product of working ahead in the count and throwing the right pitch with two strikes,” Scherzer said of the strikeout streak.
The 33-year-old right-hander struck out 268 batters in 200 2/3 innings last season to lead the National League and has more strikeouts than any other pitcher since 2012.
Foltynewicz (0-0, 3.60) can get strikeouts as well, fanning 143 in 152 innings last year in his first full season in the majors, but that he is still learning his craft was shown by his uneven 2017.
Foltynewicz, who has had trouble controlling his emotions, took a no-hitter to the ninth inning at Oakland, had a six-game winning streak and was 10-2 over a 16-start stretch.
Then the 26-year-old right-hander posted a 7.91 ERA while losing his final seven starts, finishing with a loss in Washington when he worked only four innings.
Foltynewicz had encouraging moments in his first outing this season, although the Braves lost 5-4 to Philadelphia in 11 innings for an eighth straight defeat in a game he started.
Foltynewicz gave up two homers in five innings, but struck out seven and one of his three runs was unearned.
“I thought he was really good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “His stuff was live and he was competing. It was a good, positive outing.”
Facing the high-scoring Nationals will be a challenge, though. Foltynewicz was 1-2 with a 6.64 ERA in four games against them last year and is 2-2 with a 5.63 ERA in six career outings.
The Braves play the Nationals again next week in Washington as part of a nine-game road trip that begins Thursday in Colorado. The Nationals’ home opener is Thursday against the New York Mets.