In a somewhat surprising decision, the Braves opted to give Huascar Ynoa the start in Mike Soroka’s place on Sunday. The 22-year-old righty made his debut out of the bullpen last year, but this was the first start of his major league career. However, the outing was more like an extended relief appearance — being that it was a seven-inning game, and the expectation was for him to only go a couple of frames. With that being the case, he performed remarkably well.
Ynoa pitched a perfect first two innings before running into a little bit of trouble in the third, which forced Brian Snitker to pull him in favor of Tyler Matzek with two on and one out. One of those runners would wind up crossing the plate, giving Ynoa a final line of 2.1 innings, 1 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 1K. He looked much more comfortable this time around than he did in his two appearances last season, attacking the strike zone early and often.
There was a noticeable dip in his velocity. Last year, Ynoa had an average fastball of 97.6. Today, he sat in the mid-90s all afternoon, but that might be for the better. Like most young pitchers, Ynoa’s had problems throwing strikes, but he appeared much more in control at a lower velocity. Perhaps that’s something he worked on this offseason, or it could be because it was his first appearance of the season, and there are no fans.
The rest of the seven-inning game didn’t have much excitement outside of one breakthrough inning by the Braves. In the fourth, Ronald Acuña got the party started with a two-run homer, his second of the season. Then the Braves loaded the bases for Adam Duvall, who cleared them with a double, giving them a 5-1 lead.
Per usual, the bullpen was exquisite, and it featured an appearance from Will Smith — his first in a Braves uniform. The first batter he had to face was none other than Bryce Harper, someone he’s had a lot of success against in his career (0-8 with 5Ks). Smith was able to get ahead of Harper but eventually lost him, putting two men on for Didi Gregorious. However, he was able to force Gregorious to pop out on the first pitch. The rest of the bullpen pitched 4.1 innings and allowed just one hit and one run.
It was a quality win for the Braves over their division rival, especially considering their starting pitching situation, and sets them up nicely to sweep this double-header with Max Fried on the mound in Game 2.
Photo: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire