AJ Smith-Shawver shines in debut as Braves shock Diamondbacks

MLB: JUN 04 Braves at Diamondbacks

Michael Soroka toed the rubber against Zac Gallen yesterday, making for an intriguing rubber match out in the desert before the Braves return home to face the Mets.

For Soroka, it was another performance that began promising but got out of hand in a hurry. He pitched a near-perfect first inning, allowing just a lone walk, and nearly got out of the second without any damage, but a perfectly placed single over Austin Riley‘s head put the Diamondbacks on the board. However, the third inning is when things really turned for Soroka.

A solo shot put Arizona up a run, which was then followed by three straight singles, giving the Snakes a two-run cushion. Soroka would force a grounder to end the inning, but he found more trouble in the fourth when Ketel Martel hit a two-run homer. Two batters later, Soroka was out of the game after issuing a two-out walk.

Thankfully, the Braves bats came to play. After scoring a run in the first, Ozzie Albies added two more in the third with a home run of his own off Zac Gallen, who had been nearly perfect at home coming into this matchup, owning a 0.66 ERA. Still, the Braves found themselves trailing by two going into the fifth, but their bullpen put together arguably their best performance of the season, spearheaded by 20-year-old rookie AJ Smith-Shawver in his MLB debut.

After a couple of solid innings by Collin McHugh, Brian Snitker turned to Smith-Shawver for the sixth inning. He immediately set down the side in order, picking up the third out with the first strikeout of his career. Smith-Shawver would come out again for the seventh, and it was more of the same; a perfect inning, this time with two strikeouts. He was so dominant that he even came back out for the eighth, but after a walk and a line out, his afternoon was over.

It was a spectacular MLB debut for Smith-Shawver when the Braves needed it most. He kept the team in the game, and the offense was eventually able to make the Diamondbacks pay. They cut the lead to one in the seventh, but the real fireworks came in the ninth.

Michael Harris II walked to start the inning, which was followed by a Ronald Acuña Jr. single–his third hit of the game–to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Acuña would then steal second, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position.

Unfortunately, Matt Olson couldn’t take advantage. He struck out, and the Diamondbacks chose to walk Austin Riley. Travis d’Arnaud had a chance to be the hero, but a soft liner to the shortstop put it all on the shoulders of Eddie Rosario. It felt like another game was about to slip away on this road trip… until Rosario blasted the biggest hit of the season to date, a grand slam just over the right field wall, giving the Braves a three-run lead.

Raisel Iglesias would walk the first batter he faced to start the ninth, but a double-play quickly put any chances of a comeback to rest. The Diamondbacks would go down in order as the Braves picked up a critical series win in Arizona.

It may only be June, but it was one of those games the Braves needed. The’ve been in a rut, and taking two out of three against a good team on the road is the type of series that can get things churning in the right direction, especially the way it happened. The Braves found out they might have a real weapon in AJ Smith-Shawver, and they now have a ton of momentum heading back home for a critical series against the Mets.

Photo: Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire


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