I promised that I was ready to bring y’all a win, if the team did their part. You’re welcome.
Since I was able to watch Saturday’s game from the start, I took contemporaneous notes. What follows are those notes, without (much) editing.
It’s Sorokamania time in ATL! Can he keep up his remarkable run? Saturday is an opportune time for Mike to take the mound. As you know, the Braves were coming off three of the worst games of the year, two losses to the hated gnatspos and one to a weak hitting Tigers team (who somehow hit four homers on Friday night).
What we now call a TOR starter used to be known as a Stopper. That sobriquet was created for games just such as this. I don’t know how many times Phil Niekro started after a three game losing streak, but I’m confident it was a lot. Some seasons in the late 70’s it seemed like he always started after three straight losses. As fantastic as Soroka has been, we need to be careful in our comparisons; this is just his 14th start in the big leagues.
Top first: Goodrum (who was 5 for 5 on Friday night) finally retired on a weak grounder. Soroka also induced a groundball by Stewart, but this one was a double right down the line. With a full count on Castellanos, Frenchy asks Glavine: Sinker in or slider away? Glav says sinker. That’s probably what Flowers called, but Soroka shook him off. He then strikes out Castellanos on a beautiful slider going away. This kid knows exactly what he’s doing. Unfortunately, some guy named Brandon Dixon (who is hitting cleanup!) hit a liner to right on a two strike pitch to drive in the runner. This was right after Chip pointed out that hitters are batting .333 on the first pitch against Soroka, but .091 with two strikes. I’m not usually superstitious, but Chip does have a way of jinxing things. Glavine points out, as he always does when a Braves pitcher gives up a hit, that the pitch caught too much of the plate. I’m not being critical of Glavine; he’s right–he is in the HOF because he never threw a pitch that was “middle middle.”
Bottom first: strikeout and two weak grounders.
Top second: two quick outs, then a grounder up the middle that Ronald mishandled allowing runner to second. Struck out pitcher so no harm done.
Bottom second: Why is Markakis starting today??!! Ideal time to sit him. Lefty starter, day game after a night game. Camargo needs ABs. And as hot as he’s been at AAA, I’d bring up Duvall. You might be thinking, but he’s no good. He may not be, but Duvall was at least as good an offensive player as Markakis from 2015-2017.
As soon as I finished typing this, Nick triples off the top of the right field wall.
Bad strikeout by Riley. I generally think that ABC baseball (aka get em on, get em over, get em in) is overrated. Earl Weaver was right; outs are precious, don’t give them away. And 3 run home runs beat the hell out of playing for one run. But with a runner on third with one out, you’ve got to put the ball in play. Don’t swing for the fences in this situation. Soroka’s on the mound. Get the run in. Shorten the swing, try to make contact.
Top third: Goodrum popup; Christin (Twilight) Stewart line single to right (Glavine: “that pitch caught a touch too much of the plate”). No harm done; with two outs Dixon hit one to the wall that Riley caught. There is a big dent in left field wall after Austin ran into it.
Bottom third: Another 1, 2, 3. Daniel “Bud” Norris is looking very good. In fact, he looks like Glavine—noting overpowering, but nothing middle middle. Chip asks his colleagues: Why are the Braves below .500 at home? Conclusion from Frenchy and Glavine is there is no explanation. Right! The sample size is too small. It doesn’t mean anything.
Top 4th: Someone named John Hicks is playing first and hitting fifth. Followed by Dawel Lugo and Grayson Greiner. I’d never heard of any of these guys before yesterday. We’ve got to beat this team.
Bottom fourth: Dansby good at bat, on 3-2 pitch lines one up the middle. Next pitch, boom—Freddie crushed one to right field bleachers. OK, order restored; let’s pour it on. I know Soroka never gives up more than one run, but at some point that will change. But no such luck. Next three went down in order. JD struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch. Frenchy says it’s way too close to take. Of course, Frenchy thought every pitch was too close to take.
Top 5th: Pitcher singles on a high chop. Goodrum doubled off left field wall. Stewart lines one to left to drive him in. This time, Glavine didn’t say it got too much of the plate; that pitch was around his ankles. (BTW, Chip opens up this inning by saying that although the Tigers are 10 games below .500, they have gotten hot: “They’ve won three in a row and three of their last four.” He is right about that; I looked it up, and they have done exactly that.)
Bottom fifth: Ozzie does what he does—hits the ball hard right handed–line drive single to left. Flowers strikes out. Soroka gets down excellent bunt with two strikes. Pitcher’s throw is wide, called out but replay says he’s safe. (OK, now I like replay again). Acuña singles up the middle to tie it and Soroka takes third. Swanson hits shot to third. Thought for sure a dp, but third baseman bobbled ever so briefly and Dansby beat the relay throw to first. He’s fast and he always runs hard. So Braves lead again.
Top sixth: Soroka does exactly what we need–quick 3 up 3 down. Strikes out cleanup hitter Brandon Dixon (who are these guys?), strikes out Hicks (whose walkup music is the theme from Deliverance—Matthew Kaminski continues to be a delight), and gets Lugo to line out.
Bottom sixth: Riley is due up this inning, and he’s due to homer.
I swear to you, I wrote this before Riley came to the plate. Sure enough, following a Markakis walk, he drives one deep into the right field bleachers over the Braves bullpen. Ozzie followed with a double. Chip—“Tyler will try to get him to third… or to home.” Of course, getting him to third is not what you want with one out and the pitcher on deck. I’m afraid that Chip spent so much time with Joe that his instinct is to wish for the batter to hit a grounder to second any time a runner is on second.
Top seventh: Two quick outs. On Soroka’s 100th pitch, groundball to Donaldson, who fumbles. With the top of the order coming up, Snit calls on Newcomb. Goodrum hits a triple to the gap in right center, bringing the Tigers within two with this guy Stewart up. Fortunately, Newk strikes him out.
Botton seventh: Dansby restores the 3 run lead with a shot to left. Don’t try to sneak a fastball by him inside.
In the top of the 8th I had to attend a family function, but I kept peeking at the MLB app on my phone. Webb Woom wasn’t quite enough, as Jacob gives up a run on doubles by Hixon and Dix (or something like that). So Snit calls on the Sliderman for a 5 out save. Which Luke does. And those 5 outs are 5 K’s. Luke is for real. And where would the Braves be without him?
Oh, and the Braves gave him a nice cushion in the 8th with a run scoring single by Camargo and a two run single by Ronald.
So the Braves are back in the win column and all is right with the world.
I know Soroka gave up more than one run for the first time this season, but my gosh is this guy impressive. After he surrendered the lead, he shut them down for the next couple of innings, looking sharper than he had the whole game. I love to watch him pitch. His head is as good as his arm—and he is just 21. And the other kids who were also born in 1997 did their thing. Two hits and 3 ribbies by Ronald, a double and single for Ozzie, and of course Riley continues to make history with his 8th homer in his first 16 games.
Ok, the midweek funk is over—time for a new winning streak. Teheran looks to continue his remarkable run on Sunday afternoon.
PS. I may sound critical of the announcing team, but I’m actually enjoying Chip a lot more this year than I used to. Frenchy is really pretty engaging, and Glavine helps to keep them grounded.