An exceptional performance by Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka turned into a loss when Cardinals pinch-hitter Jedd Gyorko belted a three-run homer off reliever Dan Winkler in the eighth inning Saturday night.
That long ball capped a four-run inning that brought St. Louis back from a 3-2 deficit to a 6-3 win, evening the weekend series at a game apiece.
“It was a cutter that didn’t move,” Winkler said of the fateful pitch. “Right down the middle. I was trying to make it a nastier one. I made a good one (on the previous pitch), and then I was trying to make a better one instead of just making the same pitch.
“It just spun and stayed middle (of the plate), and he hit it a long way.”
The Cardinals’ first three hits in the eighth inning were singles against Winkler, who entered the game with a 1.29 ERA in 18 appearances this season. There was a 79.6-mph line-drive single by Paul Goldschmidt that struck Winkler in the back, an opposite-field single by Marcell Ozuna and a single against the shift by Matt Carpenter.
Carpenter’s hit drove home the first run of the inning, tying the game at 3-3 and bringing Gyorko to the plate with one out and two on. Gyorko was 1-for-16 as a pinch-hitter previously this season. He deposited an 0-1 pitch over the wall in left-center field, his first home run this season and his first as a pinch-hitter since 2015.
“I made one bad pitch, and he hit it. Got to tip your cap now. Can’t really do much else,” Winkler said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the ball (again) here soon.”
Before Saturday, Winkler hadn’t allowed a run in 11 appearances (8-1/3 innings) this month. And except for the decisive pitch to Gyorko, he thought he pitched well this time, too.
“I felt like I made a lot of good pitches exactly where I wanted to,” Winkler said. “I’m going to put up a lot of zeroes if I pitch like that.”
The loss broke the Braves’ three-game winning streak and was just their fourth defeat in their past 15 games.
Soroka allowed one earned run on five hits in six innings, the eighth time in eight starts this season that he has held the opponent to one earned run or fewer. It is a historically impressive streak that Soroka said he continues to ignore.
“It’s just a reset every single day,” Soroka said. “I think (the key is) just being able to look every five days and say, ‘All right, who have I got next? Let’s go. Let’s give our team a chance to win.’”
Soroka also gave up an unearned run Saturday, scored by a baserunner, Goldschmidt, who reached on catcher’s interference by Tyler Flowers. The Braves trailed 2-1 entering the seventh inning, when consecutive one-out RBI doubles by Flowers and Ozzie Albies gave them a 3-2 lead.
Soroka was lifted for a pinch-hitter after Albies’ double, turning the game over to the bullpen. Recently acquired Anthony Swarzak worked a hitless inning, yielding to Winkler for the eighth.
“I really see it as just one bad pitch to Gyorko,” Flowers said. “He was up there trying to do damage, and he got a pitch to do something with.”
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