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Braves Minor League Recap: Michael Soroka takes a no hitter into the seventh

Soroka has been showing steady improvement at Triple-A and put together his best work on Thursday evening

Atlanta Braves v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Bruce Yeung/Getty Images

Pitching was the star of the show for the Atlanta Braves farm system, and none shined brighter than Michael Soroka who was dominant in a Gwinnett win. Down in Augusta Jhancarlos Lara put together a promising outing as well and led the system with ten strikeouts.

(30-41) Gwinnett Stripers 8, (31-39) Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 11

Box Score

  • Vaughn Grissom, SS: 0-4, .308/.373/.456
  • Luke Williams, LF: 3-3, HR, 2 RBI, .260/.343/.428
  • Dylan Dodd, SP: 4 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 7.94 ERA

(31-41) Gwinnett Stripers 8, (31-40) Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 1

Box Score

  • Vaughn Grissom, SS: 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, .312/.376/.462
  • Braden Shewmake, 2B: 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI, .219/.286/.381
  • Michael Soroka, SP: 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 3.31 ERA

Gwinnett’s double header was a tale of two pitchers, with them opening with a loss behind Dylan before finishing the day with a Michael Soroka masterpiece. Outs were hard to come by for both sides in the first game, but when Jacksonville took a two run lead in the first inning Gwinnett never got the game closer than that. Despite Dodd’s early struggles the Jumbo Shrimp weren’t hitting him particularly hard. Still they managed four runs in the first three innings and in the fourth really started to take a chunk out of Dodd. Jacksonville doubled their score with a four run inning to put them up 8-2. Offensively the Stripers answers always came a bang with their clubbing four home runs that scored eight runs. Luke Williams led the squad with a three hit showing and his first home run in a Stripers uniform.

Game two of this doubleheader belonged solely to Michael Soroka, who put up easily his best start since returning last season. Innings one through three were the typical Soroka magic as he forced weak contact consistently and allowed one walk while striking out one batter. Soroka got one strikeout in a scoreless fourth inning and then the Gwinnett offense finally got him breathing room to work with. Joe Dunand and Braden Shewmake led off the inning with back-to-back doubles to put Gwinnett on the board, and a couple of batters later Joshua Fuentes broke the game open with a three-run home run. Gwinnett would go on to score eight runs in the inning, with Vaughn Grissom doubling in two and the lineup looping all the way back around for Shewmake to drive in the game’s final run. Now holding a massive lead Soroka could really let loose, and in the fifth inning he needed only eleven pitches to strike out the side and bring his total to five. Jacksonville finally got themselves back on back in the sixth inning thanks to Soroka issuing a one out walk, but they couldn’t capitalize in any way and Soroka took a no hitter into the seventh inning. Soroka did his thing, striking out the first two batters of the seventh inning to bring him one out away from a no hitter but it wasn’t meant to be. Austin Allen turned on a 1-1 fastball from Soroka an crushed it to left field, ending the no hitter and shutout in one pitch. Still, Soroka finished strong and struck out the final batter to end a marvelous day. Soroka finished with eighteen whiffs on the game, and surprisingly those primarily came via his four seam fastball. Soroka had 49% of his pitches register as the fastball, topping out at 95.5 mph, and he forced 11 whiffs on 22 swings at the pitch. The other to do huge work was his slider that netted five whiffs on eight swings.

(33-32) Mississippi Braves 6, (22-44) Birmingham Barons 1

Box Score

  • Luke Waddell, SS: 2-4, BB, RBI, .305/.435/.458
  • Javier Valdes, C: 1-3, 2 BB, RBI, .278/.425/.508
  • Luis De Avila, SP: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 3.03 ERA

The Mississippi Braves continued a strong pitching evening behind Luis De Avila, and they cruised to a win to get themselves above .500. It was an early start for the Braves thanks to Justin Dean’s legs, as he would beat out a ground ball to the pitcher and advance around to third on an errant throw. Luke Waddell then snuck a line drive through the pulled in infield and put Mississippi up early. Mississippi’s runs were all manufactured in a similar manner, with them being primarily aided by Birmingham’s 11 issued walks. The Braves got a run in the second inning thanks to two of those and a hit batter, with Cal Conley bringing in the lone run on a ground out. In the third Mississippi got four more free passes, but only scored one run on a sacrifice fly because Luke Waddell was caught trying to steal second base for the first out. In the seventh inning Waddell made up for that by singling, advancing on a walk, pulling off a successful steal of third base and then scoring on a wild pitch. Mississippi once again loaded the bases in the eighth inning, and here they finally came up with some hits in that situation to pad their lead. Dean had the first of those to make it 5-1, then Javier Valdes got a bit lucky as he hit a high chopper down to third base that the third baseman couldn’t handle for an infield single.

Luis De Avila made quick work of the Barons in the early frames, and through five innings Birmingham came up empty against him as he held them to one hit. De Avila finally cracked again and allowed a one out single in the sixth inning but would work around it thanks to two strikeouts to finish another scoreless inning. De Avila got a run at going seven innings, but after getting the first out he allowed three straight batters to reach base with a run in and the tying run on first base. Hayden Harris was tasked with ended the Birmingham threat, and did so with a double play ball to keep the Braves on top. Harris would allow a one out double in the eighth inning, but his two strikeouts in the inning ensured Birmingham came up empty. Daysbel Hernandez held onto the lead in the ninth inning, allowing one hit and striking out two batters in a scoreless inning.

(30-36) Rome Braves 4, (35-30) Jersey Shore BlueClaws 2

Box Score

  • Drake Baldwin, C: 1-4, 2B, BB, .222/.350/.400
  • David McCabe, DH: 2-5, .328/.434/.438
  • Luis Vargas, SP: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 4.80 ERA

More winning and more good pitching was in store for the Rome Braves, who kept in a tight battle with the Blue Claws for the entire game. Eliezel Stevens put the Braves on top in the second inning, but that lead didn’t last much time at all when Jersey Shore responded with a run in the bottom of the inning. Fortunately the Braves had a big inning brewing from Keshawn Ogans, who in the third inning drove in his first run of the game on an RBI double. Two innings later and Ogans would extend the lead further by smacking a two run home run to make it 4-1 in favor of Rome.

Luis Vargas may have put up a decent fight at run prevention, but he needed a whole lot of help to get to that. Vargas got two quick outs in the second inning following being given a lead, but a one out single fell in to put the second Blue Claws runner of the game on board. The runner broke for second on a 1-1 pitch to the next batter, and on that the batter would knock a single into right field which the sprinting runner would turn into a run as he scored from first base. Vargas worked a 1-2-3 third inning and only allowed one hit in the fourth, but the fifth was the end of the line for him and the chance that Jersey Shore needed to claw back in. Vargas allowed three hits and a run in the inning, and with two outs he departed a two-run ball game with the tying run on second base. Rome needed a big out from Patrick Halligan and they got it, as he struck out the final batter of the inning to strand the runners. Halligan was tremendous in relief of Vargas, going the rest of the game scoreless while striking out six batters. The only hit he allowed was a seventh inning leadoff double, which he had no problem working around thanks to two strikeouts in the inning.

(31-34) Augusta GreenJackets 5, (28-37) Delmarva Shorebirds 4

Box Score

  • Ambioris Tavarez, SS: 3-4, 2 2B, BB, .195/.309/.293
  • Ethan Workinger, CF: 2-3, 2 BB, RBI, .288/.373/.512
  • Jhancarlos Lara, SP: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 4.93 ERA

Augusta got huge days in this one from Jhancarlos Lara and Ambioris Tavarez, and they ultimately came back late to win in the ninth inning. Tavarez led off the game with a double on the first pitch, but the GreenJackets behind him failed to bring him home and that was the only hit for the team through three innings. With two outs in the fourth the GreenJackets broke through and got doubles from EJ Exposito and Andrew Keck to put two runs on the board and take a lead. Tavarez got his second double of the game in the next inning, and this time Ethan Workinger came through with a hit to score Tavarez and extend the lead. Unfortunately the Shorebirds got three runs in the fifth inning, leading Augusta to need a comeback in the game. The GreenJackets needed one inning to tie the game, but it came on quite an odd play. To set it up EJ Exposito led the inning off with a single and advanced around to third on a single and stolen base. Andrew Keck drew a walk which left the GreenJackets with runners on the corners and one out. On strike three to Dawson Dimon, Keck was able to steal second base thanks to an errant throw that also allowed Exposito to come in from third. However the inning would end as Keck didn’t run hard to third base and the center fielder threw him out as Keck was apparently not expecting a throw on the play. Oddities aside Tavarez was once again in the middle of things in the ninth inning as he had a one out single to put the go ahead run on base. When Justin Janas reached on an error it really put Augusta in business. Workinger and Bryson Worrell each followed with base hits, scoring Tavarez to give the GreenJackets the lead they needed.

Augusta’s pitching staff didn’t allow an earned run in this game, and Jhancarlos Lara was at the forefront of that with an impressive outing. Lara struck out five batters across his first three innings of work, and had only let up a run thanks to an error with two outs in the third inning. Lara followed by striking out the side in the fourth inning and obviously with this kind of performance the GreenJackets were confident bringing him out for the fifth inning. Things did not go well initially as he allowed a double and a walk to the first two batters, but Lara got two strikeouts before loading the bases on a walk. Just an out away from escaping with the lead intact Lara forced a routine grounded to first base, but it kicked off of the leg of Justin Janas and went for a two-run error. Nolan Martinez then came in to relieve Lara and allowed a base hit that put the Shorebirds ahead before he was able to close the inning. Still the bullpen held from there, with Martinez going 2 13 innings scoreless and Landon Harper closing out the final two innings to take the win.

(5-8) FCL Braves 0, (10-3) FCL Pirates 6

Box Score

  • Douglas Glod, CF: 0-3. 224/.328/.367
  • Diego Benitez, SS: 2-4, 2 3B, .244/.306/.444

It may have been a rough day for the FCL Braves, but at least we got a good sign from Diego Benitez. Benitez had two triples in this game — the first two of his professional career — and led the way for an offense that otherwise struggled immensely. Benitez hasn’t struck out in any of his past four games and thus far has limited strikeouts to six over 49 plate appearances this season. Albert Rivas led the pitching staff as he had four strikeouts over four scoreless innings.

(3-10) DSL Braves 6, (4-8) DSL Arizona Black 0

Box Score

  • Luis Guanipa, CF: 2-4, SB
  • Carlos Monteverde, RF: 1-3, 2 BB

The DSL Braves are finally winning a couple of games, and Luis Guanipa continues to be a huge force at the top of their lineup. Guanipa had two hits and scored a run in this game, and so far has scored eleven runs in ten professional games. Guanipa’s early power surge seems to have faded a bit as he hasn’t had an extra base hit in five games, but overall he’s hitting a very impressive .295/.380/.568. Carlos Monteverde has surged after some early struggles and after reaching base three times in this game has reached safely seven times over his past four games.

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