The opening weekend sweep, when Philadelphia outclassed the Braves in every way, feels eons ago. In baseball time, it was. Just days from the All-Star break, the Braves lead the Nationals by six games and the Phillies by 6-1/2.
Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Josh Donaldson and Freddie Freeman each homered. The latter two went back-to-back, giving the Braves an MLB-most 10 back-to-back blasts. Swanson went deep twice and set a career-high with five RBIs.
“We’re all in rhythm,” Swanson said. “It just seems like it’s never ending, 1-through-8 and depending on which pitcher is hitting that day. It’s a deep lineup. With our ability not only to hit, but to run the bases and all that stuff, it allows us to put up numbers quick.”
Swanson felt Ronald Acuna’s first at-bat of the game set the tone. He forced Phillies starter Zach Eflin to throw 13 pitches. Despite Acuna striking out, it set the standard for the offense, which cut the Phillies’ four-run advantage in half during the bottom of the first.
The Braves have hit 140 homers this season, tying them for a franchise record prior to the All-Star break. Every member of their infield homered in a game for the first time since Sept. 19, 1961 (per STATS LLC).
That made the less-than-stellar pitching obsolete. Soroka wasn’t near his best, which made his outing most impressive. He allowed hits to the first three Phillies. He allowed four runs on six hits in that frame alone.
The Braves let him persist through it and were rewarded. He pitched into the fifth, allowing another trio of hits but no runs. He left after 4-2/3 at an even 100 pitches. It was Soroka’s last start before the break, and while it wasn’t the command demonstration of which fans are accustomed, the 21-year-old showed the poise that’s excited so many in and out of the organization.
Manager Brian Snitker hoped Soroka could complete the fifth frame, which would’ve aligned him to become only the 30th rookie pitcher to win 10 or more games by the All-Star break.
“I (told him) that might’ve been your best outing of the year,” Snitker said. “Those young guys, they take something away from every time they pitch. I’ve seen guys do that. There’s a long way to go in the game. How he regrouped and went right back to doing his thing – I don’t know that the sinker had the depth early, they weren’t out there blasting him, just a little out of reach. How he regrouped and got himself back together was very impressive.”
Soroka has a 4.80 ERA in the first inning (eight earned runs in 15 frames) opposed to a 1.94 ERA in other innings (16 earned runs in 74-1/3).
The Braves finish the first half with three games against the Marlins, who they’re 8-1 against this season. Julio Teheran, Max Fried and Dallas Keuchel are scheduled to start through the weekend.