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Braves' trio enjoys excitement of All-Star Game

Freeman, Acuna start for NL; Soroka tosses perfect 6th inning
@mlbbowman
July 10, 2019

Freddie Freeman introduced a national television audience to his easygoing sense of humor and Ronald Acuña Jr. got his first taste of the jewel event that might reserve a spot for him for many years to come. Meanwhile, Mike Soroka certainly took advantage of the chance to show why he

Freddie Freeman introduced a national television audience to his easygoing sense of humor and Ronald Acuña Jr. got his first taste of the jewel event that might reserve a spot for him for many years to come.

Meanwhile, Mike Soroka certainly took advantage of the chance to show why he could remain a strong National League Cy Young Award candidate over the remainder of this season. The right-hander needed only 10 pitches to complete a perfect sixth inning for the NL, which lost, 4-3, to the American League in Tuesday's All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

“The All-Star Game is all about fun and having a good time with the fans and with each other,” Freeman said. “You come together for two days, and most of the time you’re trying to compete and beat each other up, and this time you’re just trying to have fun and hang out with the guys.”

Freeman and Acuna each went hitless as they shared the splendor of this event with Soroka and Atlanta manager Brian Snitker, who served as a coach on the NL staff. The four will now enjoy a few days of rest before the Braves attempt to strengthen their NL East lead during the season’s second half, which begins Friday in San Diego.

Soroka (21 years, 339 days old) became the youngest Braves pitcher to appear in an All-Star Game and only the 14th pitcher age 21 or younger to appear in a Midsummer Classic.

Acuna (21 years, 203 days old) became the youngest Braves player to start an All-Star Game. He and Soroka are the only teammates under the age of 22 to participate in the same All-Star Game. Despite still being two months shy of his 30th birthday, Freeman was the oldest position player in the NL’s starting lineup.

Freeman’s fourth-inning leadoff walk against White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito accounted for the only offensive contribution made by a Braves player. But the veteran first baseman also created the game’s first highlight as he came to the plate mic’d up to face the Astros' Justin Verlander in the first.

While strolling toward the plate, Freeman playfully asked FOX announcers Joe Buck and John Smoltz to let him know which pitches Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez was signaling. The Braves' first baseman laughed as he informed Verlander of this request.

Obviously distracted as he continued to talk, laugh and smile, Freeman uncharacteristically kept the bat on his shoulder throughout the four-pitch at-bat that concluded with him looking at a cutter for a called third strike.

“Trying to talk and hit at the same time -- very difficult,” Freeman said. “I don’t remember the last time I didn’t swing at a pitch in an at-bat, so that was definitely bad. It was so much fun. Definitely different, but that was a good time.”

Soroka began his perfect sixth by getting Whit Merrifield to fly out to left field on a 3-0 fastball. The Braves' hurler then induced a Carlos Santana groundout before getting Daniel Vogelbach to end the inning with another flyout to left.

“It wasn’t exactly the way I would have drawn it up,” Soroka said. “I tried to be a little perfect when I came out there. Sometimes, you’ve got to pull back and say, ‘Here you go, hit it.’ Getting that first out was big.”

Acuna struck out in the third against the Twins’ Jose Berrios and again in the fifth against the Indians’ Shane Bieber, who the Ted Williams All-Star Game MVP Award presented by Chevrolet after striking out the side in his only inning. Acuna made his strongest impression Monday, when he displayed his ability to drive the ball to all fields while advancing to the semifinals of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

“I was extremely excited to be here for my first All-Star Game,” Acuna said through an interpreter. “Hopefully, there will be many more to come. But it was a great experience.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.