– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
NEW YORK — One season ago, Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka made his Major League debut in the Big Apple. Just over 365 days removed from his first shot at the bigs, and inside of the same ball park, Soroka may have clinched his spot pitching alongside the game’s best in the Midsummer Classic.
Bouncing back from having to leaving his last start early, Soroka allowed just two runs over 6 1/3 innings during Atlanta’s 6-2 victory over the New York Mets on Friday night. Another young and emerging star, rookie outfielder Austin Riley, hit a two-run home run in the second inning to start Atlanta on its way to winning its 15th game in its last 20 contests.
The win was Soroka’s ninth this season, tied for the National League lead.
Soroka did not miss his turn in the rotation after being hit by a pitch while batting in his last start in Washington, and he showed no ill effects against the struggling Mets. To start the game tonight, Soroka retired the first 10 hitters he faced before Pete Alonso’s 28th homer in the fourth cut Atlanta’s lead to 2-1.
Quality starts against the Mets are nothing new for Soroka, who is now 4-0 with a 2.19 ERA against New York in his brief career. The first of those starts came in his big-league debut last May 1 at Citi Field and, since then, he has quickly carved a path in a short amount of time that may lead him to spend some time next month in Cleveland for the All-Star Game when the pitchers and reserves are announced on Sunday.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said the 21-year-old Soroka about being in the discussion for an All-Star Game roster spot. “I wouldn’t have expected this for myself. I wouldn’t have demanded this from myself.”
Soroka left the game after allowing singles to three of the first four batters he faced in the seventh, the last being Tomas Nido’s base hit to right that scored Todd Frazier to cut Atlanta’s lead to 3-2. Despite the rocky end, Soroka’s outing had to be considered a success given the nature of how he left his last start and the questions about how his body would respond.
“It was good to see him bounce back after Sunday and kind of just pick up where he left off really,” said Atlanta manager Brian Snitker. “He was strong, did a great job and just kept throwing strikes.”
Former Met Anthony Swarzak came on to relieve Soroka and allowed the first batter, pinch hitter J.D. Davis, to reach on an infield single to load the bases. Facing two of New York’s tougher hitters to retire, Swarzak got Jeff McNeill to strike out before inducing a line out to left field from Pete Alonso to left to get out of the jam and preserve Atlanta’s lead.
Shortstop Johan Camargo blew open the 3-2 game in the next half inning with a bases-clearing, three-run double off of Mets reliever Robert Gsellman.
Mets starter and reigning Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom held up his end of the pitching duel, going six innings and allowing three runs while striking out seven, but falls to 4-7 on the year. New York came into tonight on the heels of a 3-8 road trip, including being swept in a four-game series in Philadelphia where it lost a lead of at least two runs in each of the four games. Alonso, Nido and Robinson Canó each went 2-for-4 on the night.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s game, with all photos taken by ALOST photographer Arturo Holmes. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 36 pictures in total.