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Soroka returns for another sink-or-swim attempt as Braves host Marlins

Michael Soroka will try to return to form in his first Atlanta start in nearly three years

Miami Marlins v Atlanta Braves Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

The Braves will look to wrap up their supremely dominant June on a positive note as they continue their homestand with a Friday night showdown against the Miami Marlins. This game has plenty of intrigue. For one, the Marlins, yes, the Marlins (!) are currently the Braves’ main competition for the NL East crown — they enter play today six games behind the Braves, and have gone 19-7 in June so far. (The Braves, by comparison are 20-4 in the month with one game to go.) For another, the Braves have made a key roster move ahead of this game, recalling Michael Soroka from Triple-A Gwinnett to make his first Atlanta start in nearly three years.

First, let’s talk about the Marlins. At 48-34, these Fish have MLB’s fifth-best record — ahead of teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Astros. They were below .500 as late as May 25, when the Rockies walked them off at Coors Field as part of a stretch where Miami lost four times in five games. But, since then, they’ve turned on the jets, including a six-game winning streak and two five-game winning streaks, one of which they can extend with a win tonight. They don’t have a good position player corps, which has been average-y both on the season and throughout June, but they have done an excellent job pitching. On the season, their pitching staff ranks third in MLB in fWAR; in June, it’s far and away first. Their team FIP- in June is 65; the next-closest team is “only” at 81. The same holds for xFIP-, where they have a 71 mark and the next-closest team is at 86. (By the way, that next-closest team in both FIP- and xFIP- is the Phillies.)

Yes, Miami’s record is buoyed by an insane record in one-run games so far. But they’re just 2-1 in those games in June — and have been outscoring their opponents by close to two runs per game in the month. The Braves will need to find a way to break through their pitching wall, though as the league’s most productive June offense by far, that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.

Alright, now we can turn our attention to Soroka, who will be making his third major league start of the year, and first at home, tonight. Soroka’s emotional return to the majors on May 29 in Oakland, and subsequent start in Phoenix on June 4, didn’t quite go as planned. While he showed flashes of the cerebrally-effective hurler he was before the Achilles problems set his career way, way back, he also exhibited a lot of difficulty in working effectively with revised mechanics and pitch shapes. The net result is a pretty horrible line for him so far with basically nothing to recommend it, including a 147 xFIP- that’s probably the nicest thing that can be said about the recorded performance to date.

So, in Round Three, Soroka will get another chance to sink or and swim. He’s got a lot of potential lanes for success, but is going to need to start forging ahead on at least one of them if he wants to avoid sleeping with the metaphorical fishes. Soroka will bring a career 2.05 FIP / 2.95 xFIP across five games against the Marlins into this outing, but none of that is really relevant — he’s not the same pitcher, and this isn’t quite the same hapless Marlins team. (The Braves have won four of the five starts he’s made against them, though all occurred in 2018-2019.)

Soroka’s mound opponent in this game will be Bryan Hoeing, who made two starts for the Fish in April, then worked in relief for about five weeks, and now is back starting. He’s been charged with just one run in June and has a 15/4 K/BB ratio across 15 13 innings for the month. Three of those walks came in his last start, in which he escaped five innings without a run scoring despite a 2/3 K/BB ratio against the Pirates. The Braves knocked Hoeing around in his season debut, a 3 2/3-inning start with a 2/2 K/BB ratio in which he was charged with four runs despite not allowing a homer, and also knocked him around in the meaningless final regular season game of the 2022 season. Aside from an 87-pitch outing in April, Hoeing has been in the 50-65 pitch range as a starter, so the Braves will probably see a lot of Miami’s bullpen today. That’s not necessarily a good thing, as the team has one of the better relief corps in baseball, with a lot of guys that have done excellently in June. They’ve got seven relievers all having decent-to-great seasons, led by lefty Tanner Scott, who’s been impressive this year after a so-so first season in Miami last year.

Hoeing is mostly sinker-slider, and isn’t much of a hit-his-spots, mechanics-repeater guy. His pitches tumble and his sinker has extreme fade, but he doesn’t pair it with a slider that breaks the other way, and his locations are best described as “effectively wild.” He does this weird thing where he pitches lefties with high sinkers and seems to get away with it. Given that his overall xFIP- on the year is 105 but his ERA- and FIP- are 55 and 84, respectively, there’s a decent chance his output stats could look notably worse after this game is in the books.

So, Soroka, Marlins, and so forth. It should be an interesting one.

Game Info

Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins

Friday, June 30, 2023

7:20 pm EDT

Truist Park, Atlanta, GA

TV: Bankruptcy Sports Southeast

Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM

XM Radio: Ch. 181

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