The Braves and Pirates tangled in a Spring Training contest this afternoon, and it was a wild one. The play on the field was all over the place, with scoring in seven of 18 half-innings, seven homers hit in total, and a ferocious wind that resulted in multiple pop-ups dropping in for hits and boosts to more than a few fly balls hit out to left.
Let’s start with the major leaguers. Mike Soroka got the start and was vintage Mike Soroka through the first two innings. Dealing with a bit of a tight zone, Soroka walked a man in the first but immediately induced a double play to face the minimum in the inning. In the second, Freddie Freeman botched a grounder, but Soroka immediately induced another double play ball and then struck out the next man to once again face just three batters. The third didn’t go quite as easily — Soroka allowed a grounder single up the middle, and then let Cole Tucker get his arms extended on a pitch up and away. With what appeared to be a strong wind blowing out to left, the ball carried past the stands for a two-run homer. Soroka retired the next two batters, but ended his day after a walk.
Not many regulars started in the lineup for Atlanta, and there wasn’t much to report as far as their performance went. In the first, Nick Markakis doubled off of Pittsburgh starter Trevor Williams, and Freddie Freeman followed that up with a walk, but Travis d’Arnaud hit into a 1-6-3 twin killing of his own. Freeman would later notch a single. Dansby Swanson went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts out of the leadoff spot.
The real offense came from all those other Braves in camp. Peter O’Brien, getting the start at DH, hit two homers. The first was an absolute monster jack that cleared the entire ballpark, and opened the scoring. The second was a two-run homer in the sixth that may have been wind-aided, but wasn’t quite as jaw-dropping either way. Sean Kazmar Jr. and Greyson Jenista also added jacks for the Braves: Kazmar’s came right after O’Brien’s second; Jenista’s tied the game at 7-7 in the ninth before the Braves broke through with a two-out rally, capped by Kazmar’s two-run single.
Pitching-wise, things were a mixed bag even behind Soroka. Bryse Wilson couldn’t complete an inning of work, allowing three hits and a walk, including a two-run homer off the bat of Bryan Reynolds. Ben Rowen, who came on in relief of Soroka, allowed a two-run homer of his own to Josh Bell (the second of two two-run homers given up by the Braves in the third). On the other hand, Mark Melancon worked a perfect frame with two strikeouts, Patrick Weigel got four outs (two strikeouts), and the Chris Rusin/Phil Pfeifer duo pitched the last three innings against the dregs of the Pirates’ cargo hold, allowing just three hits with an 8/0 K/BB ratio between them. Pfeifer allowed a couple of hits, including yet another wacky wind-swirled pop-up, but otherwise struck out the side to end the game.
Both teams combined for seven homers, 22 hits, four errors, and nine walks, and the game took nearly four hours. Manfred’s bane, indeed.
The Braves randomly don’t have a Spring Training contest on the schedule for tomorrow. Go figure.