Braves' four blasts not enough in opener vs. St. Louis

Odd injury cuts Soroka's uneven return short as Atlanta can't quiet Cards' bats

September 6th, 2023

ATLANTA -- The Braves returned to Truist Park Tuesday after a successful three-series road trip that included stops in San Francisco, Denver and Los Angeles. But Atlanta fell to the Cardinals, 10-6, despite a three-run eighth-inning rally in the series opener.

St. Louis hit four home runs -- including a go-ahead two-run shot from Tyler O’Neill in the second inning -- the most homers allowed at Truist Park this season.

“That’s a really good team across the way one-through-nine, and they’re never out of any game,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “No matter the lead, you are not ever extremely comfortable, and you’ve got to continue to add on and our guys did that by taking some really good swings.”

Still, the Braves continued to showcase their slugging power, and have won 10 out of their last 13 games as they inch closer to a National League playoff berth.

  • Games remaining: vs. STL (2), vs. PIT (3), at PHI (4), at MIA (3), vs. PHI (3), at WSH (4), vs. CHC (3), vs. WSH (3)
  • Standings update: The Braves hold a 14-game lead on the Phillies for the National League East title. Atlanta is currently the top NL division winner, meaning it would receive a first-round bye and face the winner of the No. 4 and No. 5 Wild Card teams in a five-game NL Division Series starting on Oct. 7.
  • Magic number for postseason berth: 4; Magic number for division title: 12

The Cardinals also spoiled ’s return to the Majors. He allowed a season-high-tying five runs, including two homers, and experienced yet another injury setback with right finger numbness, per manager Brian Snitker. The skipper said Soroka will likely land on the injured list.

“Yeah, it sucks. Obviously, a guy who's worked as hard as he has with weird injuries, it's terrible,” Matt Olson said. “You never want to see anybody get hurt or be in that position, but you feel a little extra for him.”

Snitker said Soroka, who suffered two right Achilles tendon tears in 2020 and ‘21, informed him he didn’t know when the numbness started. But his injury and play has derailed a chance for him to potentially hold down the fifth spot in Atlanta’s rotation. Spencer Strider, Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Bryce Elder have carved out their places in the rotation, and the fifth spot remains uncertain as last year’s only 20-game winner, Kyle Wright, continues to battle back from right shoulder inflammation.

Soroka, who is among the Braves’ vast pitching depth that features Jared Shuster, Dylan Dodd and Darius Vines, was recalled Tuesday and made his first start since July 21. He started strong, inducing a flyout and striking out Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Gorman looking in the first. But the righty eventually ran into trouble, giving up a two-strike RBI double to Jordan Walker and the two-run homer from O’Neill.

Soroka gave up the long ball again in the third on Nolan Gorman’s two-run shot, but ended the night with six strikeouts, one shy of tying his season high.

“A little erratic -- command and all,” Snitker said. “Every now and then, he’d get into a pitch I thought was really good, but overall just didn’t command the strike zone real good.”

Despite struggling to keep up with St. Louis, the Braves crushed four homers to increase their MLB-leading total to 263. Ozzie Albies hit his 29th home run of the year in the first inning. His next blast will tie Atlanta with the 2019 Twins as the only teams in history to have five players -- Matt Olson, Austin Riley (33), Marcell Ozuna (33), Ronald Acuña Jr. (32) -- hit 30-plus homers in the same season.

Riley and Olson hit back-to-back homers in the sixth inning after the offense went scoreless for four frames. It marked the 15th set of back-to-back homers the Braves have hit this season, tied with Houston for the most in the Majors.

Olson separated himself in the MLB home run race against the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani by one, slugging a 448-foot first-pitch solo shot in the sixth to give him 45 homers on the season.

“It’s huge. I guess it's an automatic run once it goes over the yellow line, and we've been doing that a lot this year,” Michael Harris II said. “So I guess it's a huge part of our game, and we're just trying to continue to do that.”