Justifiably, all the talk leading up to Wednesday’s game was of the MLB debut of Austin Riley. The Braves #4 ranked prospect, according to MLB.com, finally received the call after Ender Inciarte hit the Injured List with a back injury. Riley quickly let all of Atlanta know, Inciarte may never get his spot back.
After striking out in his first major league at-bat, Riley came up the second time unphased by his previous failure. On the fourth pitch, he leveled off on a fastball at the top of the zone from Michael Wacha. It was a straight laser way up into the left centerfield bleachers. A towering 438-foot blast that gave the Braves faithful a first-hand look at the type of raw power he posesses. In his third at-bat, Riley would give fans another rush to the same part of the park, but it came about ten feet from leaving the yard.
It’s not too often a rookie gets a home run in his debut and is outdone by one of his own teammates, but it happened on Wednesday. Mike Soroka took the mound for the sixth time of the year. Somehow, the Braves top-rated pitching prospect was able to lower his already minuscule ERA of 1.21 down to 0.98 after seven scoreless innings. He only needed 93 pitches to do it as well.
Soroka’s only trouble came in the third when he walked back-to-back batters and then hit Matt Carpenter to load the bases with one out. But like clockwork, he took a deep breath and forced a tailor-made double play ball to Ozzie Albies. After that, Soroka did not need to break a sweat. He only allowed three hits and three walks before exiting.
The 21-year old has turned into the Ace of the Braves staff to begin the season. His poise on the mound is unbelievable for a player his age. He paints the black, and his tool kit features a plethora of options to keep hitters off balance. There are plenty of times where it looks like the batter gave his best swing, but all it turns into is a weak flyball to the outfield. That’s due to the consistent movement on all of his pitches; which makes it nearly impossible to barrel up the ball.
Once Brian Snitker decided to give Soroka the hook, Dan Winkler came on in his place. As is necessary of the Braves bullpen, Winkler walked the first two batters he saw on eight straight pitches. Thankfully, Snitker had an ace up his sleeve the whole time. He was just waiting for the right time to play it. That ace was Luke Jackson.
Jackson entered the game with two men on and nobody out. He didn’t blink, getting DeJong to ground into a double play followed by a strikeout of Marcell Ozuna. Snitker didn’t want to mess with anything after the eighth and let Jackson continue. The Braves skipper would not regret his decision. The neighborhood slider man struck out Jose Martinez and Yadier Molina – then forced a groundball to second to shut the door.
It was a fantastic game all around for Atlanta, who move back into the green on the season at 22-21. They play the Cardinals again in a rubber match that features a pitching matchup of two veterans – Julio Teheran for the good guys and Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals.