ATLANTA -- Mike Soroka owns the distinction of being the only Major League pitcher since 1913 to allow one earned run or fewer in nine of his first 11 career starts. He is also the first Braves starter of the live-ball era (since 1920) to open a season by allowing one earned run or less in each of his first six starts.
Four years after the Braves took him with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, Soroka is impressing the Braves with an effective repertoire and the poise he showed when he suddenly and uncharacteristically lost his command during the third inning of Wednesday night’s 4-0 loss to the Cardinals.
The 21-year-old hurler issued two walks, hit a batter and totaled just seven strikes during the 20-pitch inning. But he escaped unscathed when he used the heavy sinking action of his two-seam fastball to get Paul Goldschmidt to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“He's got the pitch to get out of it,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “He’s got the power sinker to get them to hit it on the ground. He just stays composed. He doesn’t get rattled.”
Having seemingly distanced himself from the shoulder ailments that limited him to five big league starts last year and forced him to miss most of this year’s Spring Training, Soroka has posted a 0.98 ERA through this season's first six starts.
Soroka has shown the ability to pitch up in the zone with his four-seamer and keep hitters off-balance with a slider that has limited opponents to a .121 (4-for-33) batting average and .152 slugging percentage.
But his most valuable weapon is the two-seamer, which has helped him induce a grounder with 61 percent of the balls put in play. This matches Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo for the highest percentage produced by an MLB starter this year.
Soroka’s 9.1 percent walk rate would rank 60th among qualified starting pitchers. But the young hurler has consistently escaped trouble while limiting opponents to a MLB-best .050 (2-for-40) batting average with runners in scoring position.
“The biggest thing I like about this kid is he doesn’t panic,” Snitker said. “He just keeps pitching. He goes pitch to pitch. He doesn’t get caught up in what is coming down in the road. He stays current, and I think that is a great trait for a pitcher to have.”
Odds and ends
• Snitker said Mike Foltynewicz will make Sunday’s scheduled start against the Brewers. There was some question after Foltynewicz once again battled decreased velocity and struggled with his slider during Tuesday’s loss to the Cardinals. The Braves are hopeful a couple mechanical adjustments will help the All-Star hurler get back to where he was last year.
• Darren O'Day has not experienced any problems since being cleared to begin throwing, but the Braves will not get a feel for when the veteran reliever might return until he begins throwing off a mound. O’Day has been sidelined with a right forearm strain he first felt during a March 1 Spring Training game.