Atlanta rolled into the Big Apple to face a wounded LOLMets team who’d taken the art of the Blown Save to new heights recently. On top of that, the Braves had to face Jacob deGrom, who had strangled Atlanta the last time they’d faced him. But Mike Soroka showed he might just be up to the task of fronting a championship caliber rotation, as he outduelled the reigning NL Cy Young winner last night.
The 1st inning was uneventful for both sides except for a Freddie Freeman single. In the 2nd Atlanta opened the scoring when Nick MArkakis led off with a double. Brian McCann moved him over to third with a grounder, bringing up Austin Riley. deGrom got ahead 1-2, but his attempt to jam Riley caught too much of the plate, and The Human Cheat Code deposited the pitch 10 rows deep in the left field bleachers. 2-0. Soroka responded in the bottom of the inning with a quick six pitch shutdown inning. Exactly what an ‘Ace’ is supposed to do.
The bats added on a run in the top of the third with some classic Small Ball. Ronald Acuna Jr singled to start the frame and stole second. Ozzie Albies moved him to third with a ground out. After going to 3-0 on FabFive Freddie, in an obvious ‘We’re not letting you beat us.’ situation, the Mets intentionally walked him. Josh Donaldson then drove a flyball to medium deep left for the sac fly. 3-0. Soroka then shut down the Mets again with his third 1-2-3 frame in a row.
deGrom settled down after the third, striking out Brian McCann, Riley, and Johan Camargo in the 4th. Soroka opened the bottom of the frame by striking out Jeff McNeil, but it was an effort as it took 12 pitches. That AB might have taken a bit of steam out of Maple Maddux, as he then hung a slider to Pete Alonso, who hit a wall-scraper homer just out of Riley’s reach to trim the lead to 3-1. Robinson Cano followed woth a single, but Soroka retired Michael Conforto and Todd Frazier to limit the damage.
Neither team could dent the scoreboard in the 5th or 6th. Atlanta was making deGrom work, and he left after the 6th, having thrown 107 pitches. Soroka through six had only thrown 82. The top of the 7th was the Chip Carey Pun Show, as Chip flexed his verbal muscles when the Mets had Wilmer Font pitch the 7th. If I had had to hear one more ‘He’s a character.’ joke, I would probably have taken a pencil to at least one of my eardrums.
The bottom of the 7th however, made up for having to endure the top. Soroka came on to start the frame, and we got a lesson on the dangers of relying on soft contact. Todd Frazier opened with a solid single to left. Dominic Smith then took Soroka’s first pitch to right, setting up a no out first and third situation. Soroka rallied to strike out Amed Rosario, but on the next pitch Tomas Nido lined a little humpback liner about 99 feet into right to cut the lead to 3-2 and end Soroka’s night after 6 1/3 innings. Snit summoned Anthony Swarzak to put out the fire.
Facing pinch hitter J.D. Davis, he got the ground ball we were all hoping for, but unfortunately, it was a swinging bunt up the third base line that Donaldson, playing deep, could not barehand and all of a sudden it was bases loaded with one out facing McNeil, batting .344 followed by Alonso and his 28 home runs.
Let me for a moment interrupt and link to the ESPN game page. (I’d say spoiler alert, but really, the score is in the title above.) I direct your attention to the left side, where we can see the win probabilty after each at bat.
Note that after the Davis single, the giant dip. When McNeil came to bat, the Mets actually had a 55.7% chance to win. Let that sink in. IF this had been April, we know what would have happened. First, it would have been Jesse Biddle pitching, and he would’ve walked McNeil on 4 pitches, none near the plate, followed by an Alonso grand slam. Let us return however to last night and see what happened.
Swarzak played with fire, hanging his first pitch slider inside to McNeil who just missed a bases clearing double. Another Just Good Enough slider with the count 1-2 was another loud strike, as McNeil hit it foul into the upper deck in deep right. The next pitch however was the back foot slider Swarzak was looking for and McNeil flailed at it for the clutch second out. Win probability shifted to 61% for Atlanta. Swarzak then got Alonso to line out to Riley in left. 75% to the Braves. Two of the highest pressure outs of the season (so far) to get, and Houdini Swarzak gets them somehow, and he’s rewarded with the Holdiest of Holds you’ll ever see. Seems almost unfair that THAT effort gets treated the same as any other Hold.
The Braves broke it open in the top of the 8th. Freeman led off with a single off Robert Gsellman. Markakis follwed with a one out single. After BMac completed the hat trick with his third K of the night (to be fair, two were against deGrom) Austin City Limits was grazed by a Gsellman pitch on his arm, bringing up Claude, who proceeded to line the first pitch he saw into the left center gap for a bases clearing double. 6-2, and all the Mets fans started heading for the subway. A.J. Minter and Luke Jackson finished up, with Minter surrendering a Cano single for the only baserunner the pair saw.