Mike Soroka entered Thursday’s start without allowing a homer in 43-1/3 innings, the longest streak in the National League. He wasn’t aware of that success until he saw it come across the bottom-screen banner on MLB Network earlier in the day.
“I didn’t want to see it,” said Soroka, laughing. His streak extended to 49-1/3 innings after his latest showing, where he allowed one run over six innings against Arizona. Soroka hasn’t allowed a homer since his first start in 2018, when Yoenis Cespedes took him deep in May. Only Tampa Bay’s Jose Alvarado has gone longer without giving up a bomb (51-2/3).
“It’s obviously going to happen, but the sinker has been going good for us of late,” Soroka said. “Just staying out of those zones sometimes for guys. We’re mixing it up and most of my misses have been off the plate where not too much damage can be done. You’re going to miss over eventually, and someone is going to get you, but I’ll just keep doing that.”
That’s not the only historical significance achieved Thursday. Soroka has allowed one or fewer runs in eight of his first 10 starts, the only starter in MLB history to accomplish such (earned runs became an official stat in 1913).
Making the feat more impressive is that Soroka’s 2018 season ended after five starts due to right shoulder inflammation. He also didn’t pitch this spring because of unrelated shoulder soreness.
Yet the humble, soft-spoken Canadian righty is in unprecedented territory. He has a 1.21 ERA through five starts, striking out 31 and walking 11.
“A good start is just a good start,” Soroka said of his first 10 outings. “There are so many starts left just this season. It’s cool to see and look back on, and it’s going to be cool hopefully in a bunch of years when I look back on it, but for right now I’m just looking at giving the team a chance to win every night.”
Soroka walked three and hit a pair of batters Thursday. It wasn’t his best night, yet he toughed his way through six frames and left in a 1-1 tie (the Braves lost in extra innings). That the 21-year-old persisted without his best stuff is another nod to his famed maturity, for which he credits his father.
Still among the Braves’ best pitching prospects, Soroka’s star somewhat faded with the injury. It was, and still is fair to worry about a pitcher with past shoulder problems. But Soroka, now fully healthy, is leaving few doubts on the field.
Being sidelined resulted in fresh perspective. Soroka says he gained a new appreciation for taking the field. When a pitch, at-bat or inning doesn’t go his way, it’s easier to put that behind him.
That, he says, is the biggest difference since his 21st birthday.
“I feel like a different person than a year ago,” he said. “It’s easy to get high when things are going good, when you’re on a roll and able to cruise. What’s hard is – after you give up a couple or have a rough inning early on – to be able to put that back and give your team a chance to win. I think that’s the step I’ve made to be able to keep going, keep making pitches.”