The Braves, fresh off a successful West Coast trip, finally returned to Atlanta but weren’t at their best to open a six-game homestand. They lost to the Cardinals, 10-6, at Truist Park Tuesday night.
Here are five observations:
1. Michael Soroka returned to a major-league mound for the first time since July 21. It was a rough welcome back: He was charged with five runs on four hits in just three innings.
Soroka felt numbness in his fingers before exiting and will be placed on the injured list, manager Brian Snitker said. Soroka told Snitker he didn’t know when the numbness had started.
As for the on-field performance, Snitker described Soroka’s command as “erratic.”
“Every now and then he’d get in a pitch I thought was really good, but overall, he just didn’t command the strike zone real well,” Snitker said.
Soroka, 26, has endured a lot to reach the majors again after undergoing multiple Achillies surgeries and injury-induced delays that prevented him from pitching for over two seasons. But he simply hasn’t yet been effective at the highest level. The 2019 All-Star had a 6.40 ERA in seven appearances (six starts).
“I’m just amazed he’s gotten through to this point after being off for so long,” Snitker said. “It’s a credit to his work ethic and determination. That’s a long time to be out and then try to pitch a full season.”
Soroka was in the training room, the Braves said, and unavailable for comment after the game.
2. At his best, Soroka would do a nice job keeping the ball inside the park. That hasn’t been the case in 2023 – Soroka has surrendered nine homers in 32-1/3 innings. In his 2019 campaign, he allowed 14 home runs over 174-2/3 innings. Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill and infielder Nolan Gorman both homered off ill-placed fastballs Tuesday.
3. A Braves bright spot: Third baseman Austin Riley and first baseman Matt Olson belted back-to-back homers off Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas in the sixth inning. Riley and Olson have gone back-to-back in April, May, June, July, August and September.
4. Outfielder Michael Harris II provided a highlight with a spectacular snag at the wall in the fifth inning, appearing to rob Lars Nootbaar of a home run. Harris has proved a superb defender since he debuted last season.
“He’s one of the best centerfielders I’ve played with,” Olson said. “He can go run it down with the best of them.”
5. This was the Braves’ first loss to the Cardinals after sweeping the series in St. Louis earlier this year. The Braves need one win in the next two nights to secure their sixth consecutive season series win against St. Louis. They’ve beaten the Cardinals in 17 of their last 23 meetings.
Stat to know
45 -- Olson leads MLB with 45 homers, moving one past Shohei Ohtani with his blast Tuesday.
“I think it’s probably a big deal.” – Snitker on Soroka’s numbness
The Braves and Cardinals continue their series Wednesday when Spencer Strider (16-4, 3.56) faces righty Dakota Hudson (5-1, 4.02).