Soroka suffers season-ending injury in Braves’ loss to Mets

The Braves lost to Jacob deGrom and the Mets on Monday, 7-2, but the result was secondary to the gut-wrenching news that starter Mike Soroka tore his right Achilles’ tendon, ending his season.

In the third inning, Soroka delivered a pitch to J.D. Davis, who hit a grounder. Soroka began sprinting to cover first but stumbled, with the injury immediately looking like an Achilles tear. Soroka stood up and tried walking, displaying a serious limp, before going back to the ground. He was helped off the field.

Chris Rusin relieved Soroka, covering the next 3-1/3 innings. The Mets’ victory snapped the Braves’ five-game winning streak. It was also the Braves’ first loss at Truist Park.

But the Braves’ thoughts were centered on Soroka, whose season ended on the eve of his 23rd birthday. It’s a shattering loss on multiple levels. Soroka is not only the Braves’ ace, but a beloved and respected teammate in the clubhouse. He’s coming off his first full major-league season in which he earned All-Star honors.

“To sum it up, this night just sucks,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “When you lose one of the top pitching arms in this entire game for the whole season, it’s pretty tough. He was just about to take off. He was unbelievable as a rookie last year and he was off to an incredible start again.

“The mood wasn’t great and still isn’t great. It’s tough. It just stinks. It really does.”

As Freeman said, there’s “no sugarcoating” it: This was an all-around heart-breaking development for the player and organization. Soroka was making his third start of the campaign, continuing his same stellar pitching from 2019. The Braves have been giddy about Soroka since his days in the lower minor-league levels, when his maturity, approach and talent earned him constant praise.

Credit: Atlanta Braves

First baseman Freddie Freeman describes the mood in the Braves clubhouse following the injury to starting pitcher Mike Soroka.

For the 2020 team, the on-field impact is astronomical. The Braves were already dealing with rotation problems. Soroka and Max Fried were their only starters who have pitched into the sixth inning. The Braves have tried Sean Newcomb, Mike Foltynewicz (who’s now at the alternate training site in Gwinnett), Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright in search of consistency. None have delivered yet.

Without Soroka, the rotation situation grows far more dire. The team doesn’t have many options, either. It showed its faith in Foltynewicz when he was designated for assignment. Top prospect Ian Anderson is a complete unknown. Rusin, Bryse Wilson and Jhoulys Chacin, who was also designated and assigned to the alternate site, don’t inspire much confidence.

The Braves could shift surprising lefty Tyler Matzek to the rotation. He’s pitched well out of the bullpen in his first major-league action since 2015. Matzek made 24 starts across 2014-15. The Braves could also use the opener philosophy, starting a reliever and doing a “bullpen game” every fifth day. Veteran long reliever Josh Tomlin would be a logical candidate as well.

“Somebody else is going to get an opportunity,” Snitker said. “Things like that happen. These guys will regroup and somebody will get an opportunity to do something really good. We have some young guys who will continue to get better and we’re going to be fine.”

Freeman added: “No one is going to feel sorry for us. It has to be next man up. Someone is going to get a great opportunity to fill a role and have a great season.”

Whichever direction the Braves go, Soroka’s injury is devastating for one of the sport’s most talented right-handers. Undoubtedly, it’s a significant blow to the Braves’ World Series aspirations.

New York Mets Michael Conforto scores past Atlanta Braves catcher Travis D’Arnaud on a 2-run single by Robinson Cano’ to take a 3-0 lead over the Atlanta Braves during the third inning Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Atlanta.

Credit: Curtis Compton

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Credit: Curtis Compton

Notes from Monday:

⋅ Rusin couldn’t stop the third-inning bleeding. The Mets had already scored three times before Soroka’s injury and they added one more off Rusin before the inning concluded. Robinson Cano had an RBI single in the fourth and Wilson Ramos hit a two-run homer in the fifth, both off Rusin.

Overall, Rusin allowed three runs on six hits in his first 3-1/3 innings as a Brave. Despite the undesirable results, he at least covered innings at a time the Braves unexpectedly needed it.

⋅ Marcell Ozuna made a two-base error in left field to start the third, which positioned the Mets against Soroka. Amed Rosario singled to Ozuna, who misplayed the ball on a hop. The ball bounced off his glove, went between his legs and rolled behind him, allowing Rosario to take third base.

Soroka walked Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto singled home Rosario. After Soroka walked Pete Alonso, Cano scored two with a single. Soroka was injured after the next at-bat, when Davis grounded into a fielder’s choice.

⋅ Catcher Travis d’Arnaud has been exceptional since rejoining the Braves after missing the first five games. He had two hits against his former teammate deGrom, including a fifth-inning solo homer to center.

⋅ Outfielder Ronald Acuna was the only other player to have a multiple hits against deGrom, who allowed two runs on five hits across six innings. The Mets’ righty owns a 1.94 ERA in 23 starts against the Braves.

Acuna had two knocks, including an RBI double in the fifth inning. It was the third consecutive night Acuna produced an extra-base hit, and he has four of such over his past three games. The All-Star lead-off man appears to be recapturing his form after a poor start.

⋅ The Braves went 5-2 against the Mets in their first seven meetings. It was enough to put the Mets in a three-game hole through 11 contests. Both Mets wins came with deGrom on the mound. The rivals will play one more three-game series next month.

⋅ Max Fried will start against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. The Braves will host Toronto for three games before traveling to Philadelphia for a weekend series. They have 49 regular-season games remaining.

“Max Fried is going to have a little something extra (Tuesday),” Freeman said. “Max and Mike are really, really tight. I think it’s going to be a big game for Max.”