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Game #72 Preview: Soroka vs Garcia

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Braves (42-29) vs Blue Jays (33-38)

MLB: Washington Nationals at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

After a well deserved day of rest yesterday (and attending the Curve Ball Gala where they raised over $1.4m for the Jays Care Foundation) the Blue Jays start a quick 2 game set against the visiting Atlanta Braves. Today’s game gets underway at 7:07 ET.

Also a reminder that if you’re in Calgary or surrounding area to check out the BBB meetup.

Blue Jays’ Starter

Left hander Jaime Garcia makes his 13th start and one final bid to stay in the rotation before Marcus Stroman returns. Through his first 12, Garcia is 2-5 with a 5.71 ERA. He has struggled a lot this season with walks and home runs, both sitting at career high rates. His velocity is down significantly from previous seasons, and he is no longer getting groundballs at the excellent rate he was in seasons past, so it’s not big surprise that he’s struggling as much as he has.

Last time out against the Rays, he struggled a bit, allowing 4 hits, runs, walks and strikeouts over 5 innings. He was brought back out for the 6th inning when he really shouldn’t have been, and promptly gave up a leadoff walk followed by a loud double and his night was over, and then he watched from the bench as those 2 runners scored. If he would have been pulled after 5 innings and 94 pitches, his line would have looked much better. And he probably should have been pulled, because he was looking fatigued in the 5th, giving up 3 hard line drives and a walk, while missing the plate badly at times.

Since coming back from his short DL stint, Garcia has a 4.58 ERA over 19.2 innings, numbers that are pretty decent for a backend starter. And two of those starts were of him allowing 1 run over 6 and 7 innings. He also didn’t walk a batter in his first 9 innings back, but has walked 7 batters since, so that problem has returned. But there is still hope for him.

Braves’ Starter

The pride of Calgary, AB (fitting that Tom chose today to be the BBB meetup when a kid his son knew growing up is pitching) Mike Soroka gets the start for the Braves. A consensus top 50 prospect coming into the season, the 20 year old Soroka made his Major League debut on May 1.

Across his first 4 starts, the young right hander is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA, striking out 19 and walking just 5 over 21 innings. His best start was easily his last one, as he pitched 6.1 shutout innings, taking a no-hitter into the 7th. He struck out 4 and walked 1, generating a lot of easy groundballs.

Soroka features a fastball, slider and changeup, all of which are projected to be above average pitches, which when coupled with his above average command, should make for a good pitcher who is ready to be dominate for a long time. Soroka joins James Paxton and Nick Pivetta as the only Canadian starting pitchers in the Majors, while John Axford and Rob Zastryzny round out the 5 Canadians who have pitched in a game this year.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

It’s always interesting on days when a righty is on the mound to see what John Gibbons will do with the lineup. Curtis Granderson should be in the lineup, but so too should Teoscar Hernandez and Randal Grichuk, and you can’t really take Kevin Pillar out of CF either. This has lead to a lot of DH appearances for Granderson, and that could very well be the case again tonight, getting the start in place of Kendrys Morales.

Elsewhere around the diamond, barring any DL activations, we’ll likely see an infield of Solarte-Diaz-Travis-Smoak with Russell Martin back behind the plate.

Braves’ Lineup

MLB top prospect Ronald Acuna Jr. is in the exact same spot as the other 2 season opening top 3 prospects - sitting on the DL. Acuna landed on the DL on May 27 with a mild knee sprain. He has been rehabbing at the Braves Spring Training complex in Florida, and might make it back soon, but not soon enough for us to get to watch him in this series.

But if you came to watch great young talent, you still won’t be disappointed. Leading off for the Braves will be Ozzie Albies, arguably the funnest player in baseball, if you believe what Grant Brisbee says (and that’s sometimes up in the air). The 21 year old second baseman has cooled off from his scorching start, but still has a good 111 wRC+ with 16 home runs while playing solid defense. Those 16 home runs are second in the NL behind Bryce Harper, while his 53 runs scored put him in first.

Following Albies and hitting second is another young phenom, Dansby Swanson. Swanson has vastly improved his defense at SS since last year, turning around a -2.7 UZR/150 into a 10.1 mark so far this year. And the bat is starting to come around too, as he currently sits at a 94 wRC+. He’s on pace for close to 3 WAR, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that be his low mark for the next few years.

Following Swanson in the order is the real treat of having the Braves in town though. Honorary Canadian Freddie Freeman is off to the best start of his excellent career, leading the National League in OBP and SLG, as well as the other obvious things that go along with that, such as OPS and wRC+, and his 3.7 WAR is 0.5 points higher than second place Lorenzo Cain.

The rest of the order is filled out by Nick Markakis, who is off to a great start and is garnering a lot of All Star votes, somehow leading the NL. Kurt Suzuki looks to do the catching today, followed by left fielder Charlie Culberson, defensive wizard Ender Inciarte and third baseman Johan Camargo. I’m not sure who will be at DH today, as they don’t usually get to have one of those.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Brandon Nimmo had the Monster Bat yesterday, going 4-6 with a pair of home runs as the Mets destroyed the Rockies 12-2 in Colorado.

Aaron Altherr had a walk off 2-out, 2-run double in the bottom of the 10th, a play worth .826 WPA, to earn the WPA King title. His only other plate appearance was an inconsequential strikeout in the top of the 8th, so his WPA for the day was .823. His Phillies won 6-5 in 10 over the visiting Cardinals.

A pair of Trevors are the co-winners of the Pitcher of the Day award. Trevor Bauer went 7 shutout innings, allowing 3 hits and 2 walks as Cleveland beat the visiting White Sox 6-2. Trevor Williams also went 7 shutout innings, allowing just one hit with a pair of walks and a bean ball as his Pirates beat the Brewers 1-0.

Find the Link

Find the link between Soroka and the guy who finished off Max Scherzer’s last start.