TORONTO -- An early Mike Soroka exit combined with an off night from the top five spots of the lineup is not a recipe for success. But for this year's Braves, it was just an opportunity to display the potential depth of their offense, which could become more formidable if
TORONTO -- An early Mike Soroka exit combined with an off night from the top five spots of the lineup is not a recipe for success. But for this year's Braves, it was just an opportunity to display the potential depth of their offense, which could become more formidable if Johan Camargo and Ender Inciarte are rounding into form.
Camargo highlighted a career-high, four-hit performance with his first MLB grand slam and Charlie Culberson made his presence known as the Braves overcame Soroka's rocky homecoming to claim an 11-4 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
"Being on a team that's going to win, you have to have everyone doing well at some point," Culberson said. "You can't just rely on a few guys all the time because it just puts too much pressure on them. When other guys step up, it's fun to see and we can feed off of each other."
As the Braves have gained a 3 1/2-game lead in the National League East race, they have consistently benefited from Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. But Freeman's generously-awarded sixth-inning triple accounted for just one of the three hits the first five hitters in Atlanta's lineup recorded in 24 at-bats.
The bottom four hitters in the Braves' order combined to go 11-for-18 with two home runs and five doubles. While Camargo delivered the big blow and finished a triple shy of the cycle, Braves manager Brian Snitker seemed to be most encouraged by the three hits tallied by Inciarte, who had spent the afternoon hours honing his swing with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer.
Inciarte batted .167 over the 20 games leading up to him recording a pair of hits in two of the first three games of this past homestand. But it had been more than a month since he consistently hit the ball as solidly as he did when he delivered a two-run double in the fifth and added another RBI double in the ninth inning.
"Ender looked really good," Snitker said. "They were working on some things today and it was good. He was popping that bat. It was really good to see. He looked like his old self."
Camargo got the Braves rolling when he took advantage of consecutive two-out walks by drilling his monstrous grand slam off Jaime Garcia in the second inning. His impressive shot, which landed in the fourth level above the left-field wall, traveled a projected 413 feet with a 109.7-mph exit velocity -- the hardest hit ball of his career -- per Statcast™.
"You have those at-bats where you really know you can get a hold of it and tonight was one of those," said Camargo, who entered this series having hit .207 over his past 16 games.
Culberson made a great catch to strand a pair of runners in the first and began the fourth inning with a solo home run off Garcia, who allowed five earned runs over three-plus frames. The early offensive contributions helped create an 8-2, fifth-inning lead for Soroka, whose bid to earn a win was erased when he lasted just 4 2/3 innings.
"This team is just good up and down this lineup," Camargo said. "Tonight, the bottom of the lineup kind of got it done. But that's the big difference this year, everybody can hit in the lineup."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Key relief: Peter Moylan stranded two when he replaced Soroka in the fifth inning and retired the only two batters faced in the sixth before handing the ball to Sam Freeman, who recorded four strikeouts over 2 1/3 perfect innings. The outing was a confidence booster for Freeman, who allowed nine hits and issued five walks over an 8 1/3-inning span from May 23-June 15. His efficient multi-inning effort also could prove beneficial as Snitker will now have more bullpen flexibility during Wednesday afternoon's game.
"That was the biggest thing I could take out of that game, was he was able to stay out there and pitch," Snitker said. "I think it was really good for him to get an extended outing like that."
Soroka joins Toronto's Marco Estrada (May 18 vs. the A's) as the only pitchers to allow six doubles in a game this year. The most recent Braves pitcher to allow six doubles in a game had been Luiz Gohara (Sept. 19 vs. the Nationals).
Soroka admitted his emotions might have influenced him as he progressed through the first inning while pitching in front of friends and family members who came from his hometown of Calgary to see him start in his native country for the first time.
"It was everything I imagined, coming out there seeing a lot of Canadians and a lot of Canadian flags," Soroka said. "Hearing the anthem was pretty special."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Culberson prevented the Blue Jays from tallying at least a pair of first-inning runs when he snared Kevin Pillar's long drive just before crashing into the left-center-field wall to end the first inning. The Braves' left fielder covered 83 feet in five seconds to record a four-star catch (48% catch probability).
"That was a great catch," Snitker said. "I didn't think he had any chance of catching it. I thought it was a homer when he hit it. Then to keep himself together to catch the ball, it was a great play."
HE SAID IT
"You know our lineup can do that, and they have every night. It's just fun to watch those guys. It's amazing when you get four on the board in the second and then you can go out there and keep attacking. Even after a leadoff double, you don't have to pitch around guys. Even if you give up the run, it's not the biggest thing." -- Soroka
Anibal Sanchez will attempt to extend his recent success when the Braves conclude their two-game series against the Blue Jays on Wednesday at 12:37 p.m. ET. Sanchez has limited opponents to a .138 batting average over three starts (19 1/3 innings) this month, allowing just two earned runs in that span. Toronto will counter with J.A. Happ in a game that will be shown exclusively on Facebook
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.