Michael Soroka kept his composure as he was consistently in tough situations against the Cleveland Guardians this evening. He pitched into the fifth inning and kept Cleveland off the scoreboard, which helped contribute to a comfortable 8-1 victory and yet another series win for the Atlanta Braves.
For Michael Soroka, the story of this game was the fact that he bent but he definitely didn’t break while he was out there. Soroka started five innings tonight and in each of those innings, he had at least two baserunners to deal with. Soroka gave up five hits and three walks while also hitting two batters tonight, so the Guardians definitely had their chances to cash in and make this a very rough night for Atlanta’s starting pitcher.
Instead, Soroka was able to shimmy his way through the pressure and repeatedly escaped each jam that he found himself in. The first inning saw Soroka have to find a way to get out of a situation where Amed Rosario walked and José Ramírez walked and doubled, respectively. Soroka kept the runners stranded on second and third with a strikeout and a ground out. Two singles and a wild pitch meant that Soroka was in the same position with nobody out. Soroka then buckled down and got two strikeouts and a ground out to escape his second jam in as many innings.
Michael Soroka found himself dealing with a pair of baserunners again in the very next frame but this time, he only had to deal with one runner in scoring position instead of two runners ready to score and he already had gotten the leadoff batter out. A strikeout and a line out later and Soroka had pulled yet another escape act. His final Houdini act saw him get into trouble in the fourth inning without even giving up a hit, as a HBP and a walk eventually became runners on second and third with two out. Soroka got Amed Rosario to line out and once again, Cleveland had to go back out into the field with no runs to show for their effort.
Soroka found himself with two runners on the pond once again but he wasn't given the chance to get out of the jam for a fifth time in as many innings. Instead, Brian Snitker went to the bullpen and called upon Michael Tonkin to get the final out of the fifth inning after the Guardians had gotten something going with two singles. Tonkin took a page out of Soroka's book and escaped this jam with a ground out to ensure that, against all odds, Michael Soroka would end the night without giving up any runs.
On the other side of things, it was another productive night at the plate for the Braves. Cal Quantrill came into this game in the midst of a deep struggle and the Braves did indeed add to his woes with their performance tonight. Once again, Atlanta jumped on the starting pitcher in the first inning and put up a crooked number to kick things off. What was different was that Ronald Acuña Jr. had nothing to do with this first-inning ambush — he lined out to start the game. Instead, four straight singles from Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Matt Olson and Sean Murphy made it 2-0 Braves and then Eddie Rosario hit a two-out double to make it 4-0 Atlanta by the time it was Cleveland's turn to bat.
While Michael Soroka was busy slipping and sliding his way out of trouble, Atlanta added another run in the third inning and this time, it was done in the familiarly loud fashion that we've all become accustomed to when it comes to the Braves. Sean Murphy came to the plate with two out in the third and announced his return to the lineup in emphatic fashion. Murphy turned on a meatball that was smackdab in the middle of the zone and hit it over the tall fence in left field near the foul pole to make it 5-0 Braves at that point.
By the time the Braves had added onto their lead, Soroka was out of the game and the bullpen was handling business. Still, the Braves weren't done padding their lead and Austin Riley made sure of that when he was facing Tim Herrin. Herrin threw Riley a fastball and Austin got a good enough swing on it to where he was able to power it out the opposite way to right field in order to make it 6-0 in favor of the Braves at that point.
Once the ninth inning rolled around, the Braves were cruising and at this point, any more run support would've simply been icing on the cake for the series victory. Matt Olson had a sweet tooth, though, and he was able to turn on a sinker from Sam Hentges that did a bad job of sinking in order to hit an utterly majestic moonshot to push Atlanta's lead to seven runs. The Braves continued to add on as they loaded the bases with two singles and a walk and cashed in one of those runs with a productive groundout from Michael Harris II in order to head into the bottom of the ninth with an 8-0 lead.
Michael Tonkin pitched 3.1 strong innings in this one to keep the shutout going and then Ben Heller was called upon to help complete the shutout with a clean ninth inning. The bad news is that Heller did give up a run after a Steven Kwan double and a wild pitch culminated with a productive out from Amed Rosario plating Kwan. The good news is that Heller was able to eventually get the 27th out to give the Braves their 58th win of the season and yet another series victory.
Once again, the Braves continue to find ways to put their losses behind them in order to stay out of an extended down period. This was an emphatic response to the dramatic loss on July 4 and also a very exciting way to head into what should be an extremely intriguing series in Tampa. The Braves are going to have an extremely tough test as they head into the All-Star break but with the way this team is playing after picking up the series win in Cleveland, it's tough to bet against them passing the upcoming test with flying colors.