Braves fans got a glimpse of the what the future could look like when Mike Soroka pitched another gem and Austin Riley, in his first game in the majors, hit a towering home run. The future looks bright for the Braves as it’s coming more and more into focus with every performance.
Austin Riley made his Braves debut last night, and oh boy, was it a great debut. In his first at-bat, Riley struck out swinging. It was a letdown after so much hype around Riley and his promotion, but that hype was realized in his next at-bat. In his second at-bat, Riley got a high fastball from Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, and he didn’t miss his pitch. Riley hit the ball to deep center, 438 feet far. It was a monster shot from Riley and a proclamation that he is here to compete for his big league spot. In his next at-bat and final of the evening, Riley flew to center before being replaced with the better defensive left-fielder, Charlie Culberson.
Hitting a home run is somewhat common for Braves players in their first game with the Atlanta Braves. Riley joins a list of Jeff Francouer, who homered in his debut in 2005, Jason Heyward, 2010, and Evan Gattis, 2013. All three of those guys before Riley had a big impact for the Braves in their first few seasons. Let’s hope we can expect the same thing, if not more, from Riley.
Mike Soroka has become the Braves ace. That position was held by Max Fried, who has been no slouch since Soroka came back from injury, but that spot now belongs to Soroka. Last night, against the same team that dropped 14 runs on the Braves the night before, Soroka pitched seven shutout innings while needing less than 100 pitches to get there. It was a dominant performance from a player who has looked better with every start. After the great show last night, Soroka’s ERA has dipped below a run, 0.98 to be exact.
Soroka went down with an injury early into his first season with the Braves. When Soroka and Mike Foltynewicz were returning from injury around the same time this season, it was widely assumed Foltynewicz would be the top tier pitcher for the Braves. We would have all been wrong. Folty can’t seem to get people out, while Soroka can’t be hit. It’s been eye-opening to see how dominant Soroka has been early on in the season. If the Braves, and that’s a big if, continue to get these kinds of performances from Soroka, the Braves have the frontline starter they’ve been missing for so long. The Braves have found a solution in Mike Soroka.
The Braves rebuild felt endless a few years ago. The promise of prospects picked up through various trades and drafts felt like they would never materialize into something real. After years of patience, Braves fans can now see the real results of Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Max Fried, Mike Soroka, and one day, Austin Riley. The Braves didn’t have to show the kind of restraint they did with their young talent. There were trades, like JT Realmuto most recently, that could have precipitated the rebuild but instead waited for their young talent to bloom. Now, we are all seeing the patience was worth it.