Locked in a ten-pitch at-bat with two outs in the ninth and the tying runs on base, Kirby Yates pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Or, more accurately, a slider. It started off the plate and wheeled back across it, stunning Blake Perkins into staring at it for strike three. It was a fitting ending to a game where the Braves did enough to yank out a win, as the bats and bullpen both contributed to helping a reasonable effort from Michael Soroka stand up in a 6-4 win.
Though the Braves led for most of this one, they actually fell behind early, 2-0. Soroka threw a four-seamer down the middle to Christian Yelich in the bottom of the first, and it turned into a soft double into left-center. Soroka then hung a slider to William Contreras, and Contreras just missed smashing it for a two-run homer into center, instead settling for a double of his own. Soroka battled back to strike out Willy Adames, but Jesse Winker flicked a good borderline sinker into center to drive in Contreras, while getting thrown out trying to take second on the play.
But, the Braves roared right back, as we’ve seen time and again this season. Freddy Peralta had stymied the Braves over the last few years, across a couple of starts in 2021 and 2022, as well as in the 2021 NLDS, but couldn’t do so again against baseball’s premiere offense. Matt Olson drew a walk to start the second, moved to third on a Sean Murphy dunker to right, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Marcell Ozuna. After Eddie Rosario struck out on three pitches, former Brewer Orlando Arcia worked the count full and then unloaded on Fastball Freddy:
The Braves didn’t get any more in the second, but they struck again in the third. This time, it was Ozzie Albies drawing a leadoff walk, and Austin Riley smashing a 2-0 fastball into right:
Soroka, meanwhile, settled in for a while after his unfortunate first inning. He faced just one over the minimum across the second, third, and fourth. The fifth started out dicey, as Brice Turang reached on a bloop and Soroka lost command of his non-fastball offerings while walking Perkins, but he was able to escape the frame when Yelich somehow hit a letter-high four-seamer into the ground for an easy double play.
Soroka was less fortunate to start the sixth — Contreras singled to start the inning, and this time Adames made him pay for a poorly-located four-seamer, crushing it to center for a two-run homer. The Braves had gotten a sixth run off Peralta in the fifth, on an RBI groundout with the bases loaded by Ozuna, so Adames’ homer made it a 6-4 game. And there it would stay.
Another old amigo, Bryse Wilson, threw three perfect innings with five strikeouts in relief of Peralta. Both Arcia and Ronald Acuña Jr. hit deep fly balls against him in his first frame of work, but they died on the track, and he was harder to hit afterwards. But, though the offense didn’t do much against the Milwaukee relief corps, Atlanta’s bullpen was also up to the task of making Soroka’s six innings of four-run ball stand up. Ben Heller issued a one-out walk in the seventh but then immediately had it erased on a double play by pinch-hitter Raimel Tapia. Joe Jimenez had a surprising perfect inning in the eighth, striking out Contreras after an eight-pitch battle, and Adames with four straight sliders.
Then, it was Kirby Yates time in the ninth, because Raisel Iglesias was apparently unavailable after throwing 13 pitches on Tuesday and 22 pitches on Thursday. Yates started out drama-free, with two strikeouts on nine pitches, but then spun the wheel all the way to “very dramatic!” by walking the next two batters. Up came Perkins, and he engaged Yates in a wild battle of wits — Perkins went ahead 2-1, but then fouled off seven straight pitches, all probably too close to take with the game on the line. That was when Yates and Murphy apparently had enough and busted out the surprise slider, ending the game.
All-in-all, it was a so-so start for Soroka, who managed a 4/2 K/BB ratio and gave up a homer. You could say that the real damage came after batter number 18, which is true, but he also had a 3/2 K/BB ratio through 18 batters. He continues to show flashes of good stuff and an adapting approach, but also seems to oscillate between the occasional hanger or grooved fastball and being nowhere near the plate. It’s all part of the process, though, and the good news is that the Braves don’t need him to be perfect, immediately. This game shows that even with a spare-parts, ramshackle bullpen, they can still win while he figures it out.
In other news, Austin Riley continues to rake. Acuña had a weirdly bad game for him, going 0-for-5 with a strikeout and three relatively routine groundouts, so he’ll probably set some kind of record tomorrow, as Allan Winans makes his major league debut. Stay tuned.