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Soroka runs homerless streak up to 49 1/3 IP

@JakeDRill
May 10, 2019

PHOENIX -- No matter how much the Braves’ other pitchers struggle, they can continue to rely on quality starts from Mike Soroka. The right-hander had another outing typical of what he’s done through his first 10 career MLB starts, allowing one run over six innings in Atlanta’s series opener vs.

PHOENIX -- No matter how much the Braves’ other pitchers struggle, they can continue to rely on quality starts from Mike Soroka.

The right-hander had another outing typical of what he’s done through his first 10 career MLB starts, allowing one run over six innings in Atlanta’s series opener vs. the D-backs on Thursday at Chase Field. While Soroka took a no-decision, Luke Jackson blew a ninth-inning save opportunity and the Braves went on to lose, 3-2, in the 10th on Ketel Marte’s walk-off single off A.J. Minter.

Soroka, 21, is the first pitcher since earned runs became official in both leagues in 1913 to allow one or fewer earned runs as a starter in eight of his first 10 career games. He hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in any of his five starts this season, posting a 1.21 ERA.

Box score

“A good start’s just a good start, it’s just that,” said Soroka, a 2015 first-round Draft pick. “There’s so many starts left just this season. It’s cool to kind of see and look back on. It’s going to be cool hopefully in a bunch of years when I look back on it, but as for right now, obviously just looking to give the team a chance to win every single night.”

He did that, even if it wasn’t his best start of the season. Soroka allowed a baserunner in all six innings and matched career highs in walks (three) and hit by pitches (two). But he worked out of jams, preserving a 1-1 tie over his final four frames.

Relying on his two primary pitches -- his two-seam fastball and slider, which combined for 88 of his 102 pitches -- Soroka completed six innings for the third straight start. He had runners on first and second with one out in the sixth, but Josh Donaldson turned an impressive double play by fielding a tough grounder, tagging third base and throwing to first to end the inning.

“That’s what you want, that’s what you hope and so far, that’s what he’s done for us,” Donaldson said of Soroka’s consistency. “Hopefully, he can continue to go out there and do what he’s been doing.”

Soroka hasn’t allowed a home run since his first career start on May 1, 2018, to the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes. His 49 1/3-inning homerless streak is the longest active one in the National League, and second longest in the Majors behind Tampa Bay’s Jose Alvarado (51 2/3 innings).

After making only 11 starts in 2018 due to shoulder inflammation, and dealing with shoulder soreness during Spring Training, Soroka credits his improved health for his impressive start to the 2019 season.

“It’s easier to put things behind you when you make a bad pitch or a guy gets a good one off of you, it’s a lot easier just to know that you’re healthy, you have a shot, just keep making pitches,” Soroka said. “It’s a lot easier to reset that way and just understand that you have a chance. Like I said, as long as you’re out there, you feel good, good things can happen.”

This was Soroka’s second solid showing against the D-backs this season, as he allowed one run in five innings against them in his season debut on April 18. Arizona right-hander Luke Weaver outdueled him in that game, tossing five scoreless frames. Weaver pitched well against the Braves again this time, allowing one run on three hits in seven innings.

The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the ninth on Donaldson’s leadoff homer, but Jackson gave up a two-out home run to David Peralta in the bottom of the inning, leading to extras. Jackson hadn’t allowed a run since Opening Day, when he gave up a grand slam to the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins.

In the 10th, Minter issued a leadoff walk to Nick Ahmed, followed by back-to-back singles to Carson Kelly and Marte, with Marte’s dropping in shallow right field, scoring the winning run and sending the Braves to their fourth straight loss.

“It’s a tough one to lose when you fight like that,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “There’s some times in this game that it’s not kind to anybody, and it’s never how you draw it up at 4:30 [p.m.] at 9:30 [p.m.] and 10 o’clock. But you’ve just got to gut through it, you’ve got to fight through it, you’ve got to keep fighting the fight and eventually it will turn.”

Jake Rill is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JakeDRill.