The Braves got another promising glimpse of one of their prized pitching prospects Thursday afternoon at SunTrust Park, but they also absorbed another loss.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, who led 1-0 when Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka departed after five innings, tacked on three runs against reliever Chad Sobotka and won 4-1 to complete a three-game sweep of the series. The Braves ended a 2-5 homestand and dropped to 9-9 for the season.
“We’ve just got to grind through it,” manager Brian Snitker said afterward. “If you handle it, take responsibility for it, (take) ownership of what you’re doing ... there’s good things on the other end when you weather those storms.
“This business and this game can change with the wind. You can be going so good, and you look up and you’re playing like we are right now.”
Other than starting pitching, the Braves came up short in all facets of the game Thursday. The bullpen faltered again, Sobotka allowing a two-run homer to Christian Walker in the Diamondbacks’ three-run seventh inning. The hitters struck out 16 times, including three apiece by Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna and Tyler Flowers, and produced no runs until a solo home run by Freddie Freeman in the eighth. And the defense committed two errors, both by Johan Camargo at third base, one leading to a run.
“It always looks worse when you have multiple facets not doing as well as they were,” Flowers said. “That makes kind of everything stand out more.”
Pitching in his first major-league game this season, uber-prospect Soroka allowed one run and four hits in five innings of work, striking out six, walking two (one intentionally) and hitting two batters with pitches. He finished with a flourish, getting out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning unscathed.
“Making good pitches with guys on, that was the big thing today,” Soroka said.
Both in terms of his repertoire -- sinker, slider, four-seam fastball and change-up -- and his composure, it was an impressive outing for a pitcher who missed a total of 4-1/2 months last season with a sore right shoulder.
The shoulder also sidelined Soroka in spring training this year, but he expressed optimism Thursday that the issue is behind him.
“We know what we need to do to keep (the inflammation) out of there this time and why it happened,” Soroka said. “It wasn’t so much throwing issues; it was just the way my body was working. So we figured that out, and hopefully we know how to keep it (healthy).”
Said Snitker: “He looked great to me and (showed) no effects from anything he has gone through.”
When the 21-year-old Soroka was promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett to start the game – his first big-league start since last June -- he became the youngest pitcher in the National League and the second youngest in the majors behind only Toronto’s 19-year-old Elvis Luciano.
Whether Soroka’s next start will be for Atlanta or Gwinnett is unclear, what with Mike Foltynewicz likely to join the Braves’ rotation after one more minor-league rehab start if all goes well. Foltynewicz, who missed most of spring training with a sore elbow, hasn’t pitched in a major-league game this season.
“We’ll evaluate that,” Snitker said of the next step for Soroka. “Until Folty comes back, I’m thinking there’s still a spot there.”
Arizona also got a strong performance from its starting pitcher: Luke Weaver, one of three players acquired from St. Louis in an off-season trade for star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, held the Braves scoreless over five innings while allowing four hits and striking out nine.
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