It’s been a pleasant experience this season whenever the Atlanta Braves have seen a left-handed starting pitcher. It’s been especially fun for second baseman Ozzie Albies.
The Braves, who lead the National League in batting against lefties, improved their record to 6-2 against southpaw starters on Monday, with Albies a big contributor to the 3-1 win.
“He’s been a little hot and he’s done a good job,” manager Brian Snitker said.
Albies continues to produce from the leadoff spot. He went 2-for-4 – he’s now hitting .394 (13-for-33) from the right side – with a pair of RBI to help the Braves win their second straight.
“He’s just got a really good right-handed swing,” Snitker said. “He always has. It’s always been his dominant side. Next time you turn him around he and rifles one in the Chop House left-handed. He’s always been a strong right-handed hitter.”
The big blow came in the fifth when Albies lined his team-leading sixth homer of the season off San Diego southpaw Nick Margevicius. It was his fourth homer as a right-handed batter and the shot bounced off the façade of the Hank Aaron deck in left field.
Albies is now 8-for-18 with three homers, six runs and six RBI over his last four games.
The beneficiary was starting pitcher Mike Soroka (2-1). The rookie right-hander pitched six strong innings and allowed one run on four hits with a career-high eight strikeouts. Soroka’s control was in top form; he threw a first-pitch strike to the first 10 batters and walked only one. He retired the last nine batters he faced, the final six by strikeout.
“He keeps pitching,” Snitker said. “He trusts his stuff, he gets in the strike zone and he doesn’t nibble. He doesn’t shy away. He gets in the strike zone and gets contact.”
Soroka would have gone another inning, but the Braves loaded the bases in the sixth and Snitker used Charlie Culberson as a pinch-hitter. Culberson hit a shot to left field, but it was caught to end the inning.
The bullpen made it stand up on Monday. Josh Tomlin pitched two scoreless innings and got out of mild mess in the eighth inning when he retired Franmil Reyes and Manny Machado on fly balls with runners at first and second. Machado had been 5-for-8 with two homers in his career against Tomlin.
Jerry Blevins got the first out in the ninth inning and rookie Jacob Webb retired the next two batters to nail down his first career save. Webb struck out Wil Myers to end the game.
“It was a little different coming in that situation,” Webb said. “I’m used to it down in the lower levels, but it felt pretty good.”
Margevicius (2-3) pitched well, too. The rookie left-hander pitched 5.2 innings and allowed three runs on four hits and three walks. Two of the runs were unearned and were produced in an unorthodox manner.
Ender Inciarte singled with one out, but had to leave the game with right hamstring tightness. Soroka tried to sacrifice but his bunt was fielded by first baseman Eric Hosmer, who threw wildly to second base in an effort to erase Johan Camargo, who had entered to run for Inciarte. Center fielder Manuel Margot overran the ball as it sailed into the outfield, which allowed Camargo to score and Soroka to reach third. Albies then singled home Soroka.
Snitker said Inciarte “tested out good” after he left the game. “We’ll know more tomorrow,” he said.
The Braves won despite only six hits. Freddie Freeman failed to reach base for the first time all season, ending his streak at 27 straight games. That matched the Atlanta record for a season-opening streak.
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