What Soroka, manager said about rookie’s Canadian homecoming

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It wasn’t one of the Braves rookie’s better starts, but his teammates had his back in an 11-4 rout Tuesday at a Toronto. (Video by David O’Brien)

TORONTO -- Braves rookie pitcher Mike Soroka made his fifth major league start and his first in his Canadian homeland.

The Calgary right-hander matched career-highs with eight hits and four earned runs allowed in 4 2/3 innings, but did minimize the damage in a few innings and the Braves gave him plenty of defensive and offensive support in an 11-4 win over the Blue Jays.

Here’s what Soroka and manager Brian Snitker had to say about his performance on the night the 20-year-old became the youngest Canadian to pitch in a major-league game in Canada.

** MIKE SOROKA

On being off-target and amped up a little early on

“Everything was a little up (in the zone), but I thought we settled down pretty good and just kept to the game plan. It was everything I’d imagine, for sure, coming out there and seeing a lot of Canadians, lot of Canadian flags. Hearing the anthem was pretty special too.”

Were you excited, a little extra adrenaline?

“Yeah, definitely. I’m not sure about adrenaline, because it’s my first time in the big leagues and every inning the adrenaline is there. But definitely felt the energy early, felt that coming into the stadium, lot of people I recognized. It feels more like home, so that’s pretty cool.”

Did you feel like you were working around a runner in scoring position every inning?

“Yeah, I felt like that and I think I was doing that too. A lot of times we get attacking and that’s going to happen. Those little pitches on the edge, if they’re just a little farther out there, they’re pop-ups or ground balls. It’s just a matter of making little adjustments.”

Can you walk away from this with the confidence from knowing you were able to minimize damage for the most part?

“Yeah, definitely. I think that Flow (Tyler Flowers) and I stayed on the same page the entire night. I mentioned to him, a lot of the off-speed pitches he called I had pre-gripped, so I think we were working well together and really making sure that we executed the next pitch. I got out of a couple of jams and got a couple of really nice plays, one from Charelie, a couple of Ozzie too. Those guys really made it a lot easier tonight.”

On Charlie Culberson’s catch for third out of first inning, on warning track before crashing into wall with two runners on

“I thought it was a home run off the bat actually. I knew it was going to be close and I looked up and saw Charlie just getting it and he came down with it on the track and went into the wall. I mean, that’s one of the first holy…like, ‘holy cow’ plays that I saw. I definitely owe him dinner.”

Did you take a moment before the game to kind of appreciate what you were about to do?

“Yeah, for sure. A lot of that was just seeing friends and family. A lot of it was feeling at home in a city I’ve known a little bit, even though it’s not my home city. It’s a city that I’ve gotten to know through Baseball Canada really well. It’s amazing to see the outreach from family and friends, and Baseball Canada in general.”

How many family and friends did you have here?

“We had about 15 (that he helped organize), but I think there were quite a few more that came in on their own, that live in the area. There was quite a big following.”

On the night that the bottom half of the lineup had

“It’s incredible. You know that our lineup can do that every single night, and they have been. One through nine it’s just fun to watch those guys. It’s been amazing to go out there, you get four on the board in the second and then you can go out there and keep attacking. Even after a leadoff double you don’t have to start pitching around guys, you can keep the game plan, and if you surrender that run it’s not the worst thing.”

**BRIAN SNITKER

Did you think it was a case of Soroka being over-amped a bit with coming home to pitch in Canada?

“I don’t know, maybe. He threw some good sinkers but a lot of stuff was right down the middle. A lot of pitches he made were right down the middle. It didn’t look like it was going anywhere anytime soon; Peter (Moylan) did a good job coming in and getting us out of that inning.”

On the bottom half of order’s production including four hits, five RBIs and a grand slam from Johan Camargo and three hits from slumping Ender Inciarte

“Camargo was huge tonight. And Ender looked really good; they were kind of working on some things today and it was good, he was popping that bat. That was really good to see out of him, he looked like his old self.”

What were you thinking when Charlie Culberson crashed into the wall after making a spectacular catch for the third out of the first inning with two runners on?

“I was wondering if I’m going to be able to make it out there. I said, he’ll be healed by the time I get there. That was a great catch, my God, I didn’t think he had any chance of catching it. I thought it was a homer when he hit it, No. 1, and then to keep himself together to catch the ball, that was a great place.”

On reliever Sam Freeman’s performance after some recent struggles (the lefty retired all seven batters he faced including four strikeouts)

“That was huge. That was the best thing I can probably take out of that game was probably the fact that he could stay out there and throw his pitches. I think it was really good for him to get an extended outing like that. I think it’ll be really good for him to do that. There was a similar situation last year against the Astros, he had the same type of outing and then kind of (took off) from there, so it was really good. And the stuff was really sharp too, it was live.”