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Atlanta Braves Minor League Recap: Mike Soroka dominates in first rehab start

Soroka struck out eight over four scoreless innings in Rome

Justin Franklin/Rome Braves

Tuesday night in Atlanta Braves Minor League action belonged to one man – Mike Soroka. The long-injured Braves starter finally returned to the mound for the first time in over two years when he began a rehab assignment with High-A Rome. While any reasonable fan of baseball would have been overjoyed to see a healthy Soroka throwing competitive pitches, “Maple Maddux” blew past those expectations with four dominant innings. More on his debut below.

Outside of Soroka’s debut, Gwinnet and Rome pulled out come-from-behind extra-inning victories, Augusta was blown out and Mississippi was rained out.

(54-58) Gwinnett Braves 4, (58-53) Memphis Redbirds 3 – 11 innings

Box Score

  • Hendrik Clementina, DH: 1-3, 2 RBI, BB, .125/.222/.313
  • Taylor Motter, 1B: 1-5, 2B, RBI, .241/.349/.556
  • Jared Shuster, SP: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 4.60 ERA
  • Jay Jackson, RP: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 K, 1.98 ERA
  • Michael Tonkin, RP: W, 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 K, 3.03 ERA

The Gwinnett Stripers won a pitcher’s duel against the International’s League’s best, toppling the Memphis Redbirds 4-3 in 11 innings. Run-scoring hits in the first and second innings by Taylor Motter and Hendrik Clementina, respectively, staked Gwinnett starter Jared Shuster to a 2-0 lead entering the third inning. Unfortunately, Shuster ran into some trouble in the frame as Memphis tied the game at 2-2 on a one-out double.

The game remained right there until extra innings with the starters and bullpens largely dominating. Gwinnett threatened in the ninth, but Delino DeShields grounded out with the bases juiced to send the game to extras tied at two. Neither team capitalized on the free runner in the 10th, but in the 11th, Memphis struck first with a leadoff double to score the runner at second. However, Stripers reliever Michael Tonkin, in his second inning of work, limited the damage to just one run entering the bottom of the inning.

After Alex Dickerson struck out to start the 11th for Gwinnett, Ryan Casteel reached via an error on a comebacker to the mound, advancing Hernan Perez, who started the inning at second, to third. A walk worked by Joe Dunand loaded the bases before a strike out left Gwinnett with only one out to play with. Clementina came through with a bases-loaded walk to bring the tying run across. Then, DeShields chopped a high-hopper in front of home plate that Redbirds pitcher Zach McAllister misfired to home, scoring the winning run.

Shuster, in his fourth start at Triple-A, pitched six solid innings for Gwinnett, holding the International League’s top offense to just two runs on five hits. Three of those five hits allowed came in the third inning, including a two-out-two-run double which accounted for the only run-producing hit off Shuster. Other than that speed bump, Shuster was very efficient totaling 82 pitches in his six innings of work with three strikeouts and no walks.

(49-59, 20-19 second half) Mississippi Braves vs. (55-49, 20-19 second half) Pensacola Blue Wahoos - Postponed

A rainout. Sadness.

(66-43, 30-13 second half) Rome Braves 6, (46-61, 19-23 second half) Greensboro Grasshoppers 5 – 10 innings

Box Score

  • Mike Soroka, SP: 4.0 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K, 0.00 ERA
  • Tyler Tolve C: 1-5, HR, RBI, 2 R, .262/.335/.480
  • Bryson Horne: 2-5, 2 2B, RBI, R, .270/.337/.427
  • Trey Riley, RP: W, 2.0 IP, H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3.99 ERA

For those that immediately scrolled here to read more about Mike Soroka’s return to the mound, welcome! Let’s get right into his start. Initially scheduled for just three innings, Soroka exceeded that total and threw four fabulous frames, allowing one hit while striking out eight.

In the first, Soroka re-introduced himself with a near-immaculate inning, needing just 10 pitches to strike out the side. Two more strikeouts and a quick groundout followed in the second, before Soroka K’d the side again in the third. Needing only 31 pitches (that’s just six above the minimum when you strike out eight of nine) to get through his three scheduled innings, Soroka returned for the top of the fourth. It wasn’t quite as smooth as his silky first three innings were, with two two-out baserunners reaching against Soroka, one via a throwing error and the other on a hit through the right side of the infield. Unfazed, Soroka got a groundball out to end the frame and his outing.

Throughout his 45 pitches, Soroka touched 93-94 mph on his four-seamer and blew hitters away with the sinker at 91-92 mph. An 84-mph slider induced some silly swings and Soroka mixed in his changeup nicely as well. While whiffs are fun, it was also encouraging to see the type of contact that Soroka induced. Six Grasshoppers put the ball in play against Soroka, all on the ground, with only one sneaking through for a hit.

After the game, Soroka mentioned that it was nice to feel healthy after a start and that he has no expectations for a timeframe to return to the big leagues.

As for the rest of the game, Soroka departed with the lead, but the Rome bullpen couldn’t hold it as the Braves entered the ninth down 5-3. A furious two-out ninth-inning comeback, capped by RBI singles from Cal Conley and Geraldo Quintero forced extra innings. After Rome limited the damage in the top of the 10th to just the free runner scoring for Greensboro, the Braves walked it off on Caleb Durbin’s bases-loaded single up the middle. It was a deserved ending to a fun night at AdventHealth Stadium.

Tyler Tolve hit his 10th home run of the year in the win while Bryson Horne added two doubles. Conley knocked in a pair of runs while Rome spread out 13 hits across eight different batters in its lineup. Trey Riley got the win after striking out the side in the ninth while limiting the Grasshoppers to a lone run (unearned) in the 10th.

(56-51, 20-21 second half) Augusta GreenJackets 2, (72-36, 26-16) Charleston Riverdogs 13

Box Score

  • David McCabe, 3B: 2-4, HR, 2 RBI, R, .348/.385/.565
  • Brandol Mezquita, RF: 1-3, R, BB, .284/.375/.379
  • Drake Baldwin, C: 1-3, BB, .300/.391/.400
  • Jorge Bautista., SP: 5.0 IP, 13 H, 8 R, 8 ER, BB, 2 K, 12.63 ERA

This was a forgettable night in Augusta for the GreenJackets against the Charleston RiverDogs. In a 13-2 loss, Augusta’s pitchers allowed the top team in the Carolina League to pound out 21 hits as the RiverDogs scored in seven of their nine frames. Starter Jorge Bautista wore this one, allowing 13 hits and eight runs, all earned, in five innings of work. The start continued a tough month of August for Bautista as the righty has given up 18 earned runs in 13.2 innings of work across three starts.

Offensively, Augusta wasn’t able to get the bats going in the loss, managing just five hits and two runs, both coming on third baseman David McCabe’s first professional home run - an opposite field shot to left. McCabe’s bat has been red-hot since making the move to full-season ball with Augusta last week, with three extra-base hits and eight RBIs in six games.

Drake Baldwin and Brandol Mezquita got on base twice each, both with a single and a walk, and Makhi Backstrom got in the hit column with a double.

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