The Braves were in split-squad mode today and while there were some positives on display from a few individual players, the day ultimately ended with the Braves losing both games that they played in this afternoon.
Initially, all eyes were focused on what was going on in North Port as the Braves hosted the Yankees for a game. Mike Soroka finally made his first start of spring, and the obvious hope was that he was going to look and feel just fine after having his start pushed back a few days due to precautionary measures. Fortunately, Soroka looked just as good as we’d expect him to look — he picked up three strikeouts over two scoreless innings and didn’t walk a single batter. He did give up three hits, but it never appeared as if he was in any danger — even as he gave up two of those three hits in the second inning. It was a nice and steady start for Soroka as he figures to be the big favorite to make the start on Opening Day this season.
At the plate, the Braves rewarded Soroka by giving him some offense to go out on. After Ender Inciarte drew a walk against Deivi Garcia, Johan Camargo followed that up with a no-doubt home run to right center field to put the Braves ahead 2-0 at that point. With Austin Riley playing for the other Braves squad, this was a prime opportunity for Camargo to help himself when it comes to that particular position battle and hitting a home run should surely help his case.
That was it as far as any significant offense was concerned for the Braves until the bottom of the ninth inning, which is when Trey Harris went deep with a solo home run to give the Braves their first hit since Nick Markakis got himself a single in the third inning. The middle part of this game belonged to the Yankees both on the mound and at the plate as well.
The Yankees scored all five of their runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. New York got on the board after Mike Trauchman scored following a throwing error from Travis d’Arnaud. Atlanta’s offsesason signing at catcher threw the ball into center field while attempting to throw out Kyle Holder at second base on a steal attempt. That ended up messing up Will Smith’s attempt to clean up that inning after giving up a walk and a single to start off the frame.
Shane Greene and Grant Dayton got the ball for the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Greene ended up giving up a go-ahead two-run homer against Estevan Florial, then Grant Dayton got knocked around for two doubles and a single in the eighth inning. It’s definitely not what you want to see from Greene and this was also a second consecutive bad day at the office for Dayton, who is starting to build up a bit of a nasty stat line — even if it’s just spring.
Over at Clearwater, the Braves had to deal with Aaron Nola making his second start of spring training. The first two innings looked like an Aaron Nola highlight reel, as he racked up six strikeouts over two scoreless innings. Then the third inning came along and the Braves finally woke up. In what seemed like just a blink of an eye, the Braves had the bases loaded after three consecutive hits from Rafael Ortega, Adam Duvall, and Austin Riley. This was the end of the day for Aaron Nola, and he ended up getting credited for two of those runs after Addison Russ came in and walked Charlie Culberson before giving up a sacrifice fly to Cristian Pache.
Atlanta’s 2-0 lead lasted until the fifth inning, which is when Kyle Muller entered the game and proceeded to get into a heap of trouble. After Bryse Wilson and Thomas Burrows kept the Phillies off the board for the first four innings, the floodgates came bursting open. The big hit came from none other than Bryce Harper, who came up to bat with the bases loaded and nobody out and hit a bases-clearing double to put Philadelphia ahead. Wilson exited the game after giving up an RBI single and a walk, then Kurt Hoekstra walked in a run to make it 5-2 at that point.
It stayed that way until the ninth inning, which is when the mass-substituted Braves mounted a rally to score three runs to tie it up heading into the bottom of the ninth. Then the Phillies mounted a rally of their own and I’ll just let MLB.com tell you what happened as the game ended:
That is what spring training is all about, right there. The Braves dropped both games today and they’ll actually have a little bit more time to prepare for tomorrow’s lone game, which will be an evening tilt in Port Charlotte, Florida against the Rays. But for now, the Braves continue their slide down the prestigious and extremely competitive Grapefruit League standings with a pair of losses in one day.