If you like pitcher’s duels, this was the game for you. If you like big, game-defining homers, this was the game for you. If you like Atlanta Braves pitchers whose surnames start with “So” and end in “a” doing well, this was the game for you. And most importantly, if you like the Braves sweeping the Padres in San Diego for the first time since 2006 (also in the first post-All-Star Break series by these two teams that year), this was definitely, indubitably, the game for you.
The first seven innings of this afternoon contest were a vintage pitcher’s duel between two rookies. What juiced ball? No runs crossed the plate; hell — no one even recorded an extra-base hit. This isn’t to say that innings were without drama: the Braves failed to erase two Padres baserunners on pickoffs (thanks to a Neo-esque Matrix-inspired move by Fernando Tatis Jr. in one instance — he Dodge This’d a tag), Mike Soroka got hit by a pitch on his hand while trying to lay down a bunt, there was an awesome defensive play that robbed Manny Machado of extra bases and likely saved a run (see below), and, in the end both teams threatened to score at least once. But, in the end, the game was knotted at zero.
Mike Soroka scattered six hits over seven frames with a dazzling 9/1 K/BB ratio, completely bamboozling the Friars with changeups, sliders, and even his two-seamer. He generated an insane 18 whiffs from his 83 pitches. Quantrill wasn’t much worse across six frames in easily his best outing as a major leaguer to date, scattering just three hits with a 3/1 K/BB ratio and generating grounder after grounder, often early in the count. After Quantrill departed, Craig Stammen came on and helped the Padres continue to match Soroka, as he hurled a 1-2-3, seven-pitch inning with one strikeout.
But then, the eighth! Excitement abounded from the get-go. The Padres called upon Trey Wingenter for the top of the inning, who has to date provided a sizable one-two relief punch with Kirby Yates, whom the Braves knocked around a bit last night. Wingenter also got knocked around, to say the least. With one out, pinch-hitter Matt Joyce and Ronald Acuña Jr. hit back-to-back singles to put the go-ahead run on third. Dansby Swanson then battled Wingenter across five pitches before ultimately succumbing to a questionable punchout on a check-swing call. That set up Freddie Freeman, and he came through, more than redeeming what had been a miserable series for him to date. Boom!
The Braves’ offense and Wingenter’s troubles weren’t quite over, either, even with the Braves now holding a three-run advantage. Josh Donaldson coaxed a walk, stole second (yes, his third stolen base of the year), and scored on a Nick Markakis single. 4-0 Braves, six outs to get.
Oh, but those outs, they proved to be ornery, at least in first. With four runs forming a cushion, the Braves asked Touki Toussaint to shut the door. He did not. Two straight singles greeted him, and up came Manny Machado, who could trim the lead to a lone run with one swing. Toussaint fell behind 3-0, but gift of gifts — Machado popped out to right, and the Padres didn’t attempt to make a sacrifice fly out of his failed gambit. Toussaint then walked Franmil Reyes, and out hopped Brian Snitker to show him the metaphorical door (or route into the clubhouse tunnel). Out came Sean Newcomb to face last night’s San Diego near-hero, Francisco Mejia. No problem, at least not this time — Mejia fouled out to third on Newcomb’s first pitch. That set up a lefty-lefty matchup against Josh Naylor, who bedeviled Soroka with two singles earlier in the game, and Naylor came through again, singling up the middle to put San Diego on the board and re-loading the bases. The Padres pinch-hit Hunter Renfroe, looking for a late-inning stunner, and the Braves countered with Chad Sobotka to regain the platoon advantage. After two pitches, it was 0-2. After three more pitches, the count was full. Sobotka fired the ball towards home and it just kind of hung there, hurtling towards dead center. Renfroe took a mighty cut… and came up with nothing but air. Strike three, sit down, Braves still lead 4-1, headed to the ninth…
…which was relatively anticlimactic. The Braves got a couple of baserunners on with two outs thanks to two infield errors, but Dansby Swanson’s deep drive was caught in the left-field gap by Naylor to end the frame. On came A.J. Minter, and despite a poor throw (saved by Freeman at first) on a soft tapper fielded by the pitcher and a two-out Tatis singled, closed the book on the Padres.
Yes, that’s right, the Braves secured their first sweep in San Diego since 2006. Mike Soroka was awesome, Freddie Freeman came up with a huge hit, Chad Sobotka stunned the stadium, and off the Braves go to Milwaukee with a seven-game division lead.