Entering the game with the worst record in the South Atlantic League, the Rome (Ga.) Braves shut down the Hickory Crawdads Thursday night 3-0 in front of 2.402 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
Hickory entered the game with the SAL’s best record (22-11) and remains there in spite of the loss. The Crawdads are 1 ½ games ahead of Hagerstown (Md.) in the Northern Division.
Rome put out one of the Atlanta Braves top prospects on the mound Thursday night in pitcher Mike Soroka. The 2015 first-round pick out of Calgary did little to disappoint as he held the Crawdads to one hit and two walks over 5.1 innings and struck out five. Trevor Belicek entered the game and gave up a double over 2.2 innings before A. J. Minter wrapped up the two-hitter with a perfect ninth.
The Braves scored an unearned run against Crawdads starter Jonathan Hernandez (4-2) in the fourth. After second baseman Andy Ibanez botched a potential inning-ending double play ball from Lucas Herbert, Alejandro Salazar later in the inning picked up the RBI with a sacrifice fly.
The lone earned run of the game came in the seventh when Herbert doubled in Juan Yepez. The final run came in the ninth as shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri’s error on another inning-ending double play ball. The Braves cashed in the miscue when Leudys Baez scored on Austin Riley’s RBi single.
As a group: The team had a more difficult time solving the Braves starter than in his previous start when they touched him up for six runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks over four innings. On Thursday, Soroka spotted a fastball 90-93 around the plate and then whipped out an effective curve that kept Crawdads hitters honest. There appeared to be an occasional change around 83-87 that served to break up the fastball/ curve sequence. Off the 17 outs recorded, 13 came on strikeouts or grounders.
Eric Jenkins: After nine strikeouts in 11 ABs, a day off seemed to be what Jenkins needed. The only Crawdads hitter to solve Soroka, he showed good patience in the first before turning an inside fastball for a lined single to right. In the third, an 8-pitch AB went for a walk. Only a great play by 2B Luke Dykstra kept Jenkins off the bases for a third time. He saw 26 pitches in 4 at bats, 14 of those in the first two ABs.
Andy Ibanez: Has cooled off since a blazing April, currently at .143/.265/.250 for May. Since this was only the second home game of May – the first since May 2, there’s not a lot I can say as to what he has been or not been doing. He is seeing a good many more breaking balls than I recall him seeing in April and he is having to adjust and could be a bit impatient right now. In the first inning, he was able to lay off Soroka’s curve the first time before flailing at one low and away for a strike out.
Tyler Sanchez: A tough night at the plate as Soroka got him looking at a curve in the second. Then, as he appeared to be looking for a curve on a 2-2 count in the fourth, he was late for a fastball off the plate. Against the lefty Belicek in the seventh, it was a fastball outside looking for strike one, swinging through a similar pitch for strike two, then looking at a curve for the out.
Jonathan Hernandez: Didn’t pitch that poorly, but wasn’t on the same level as Soroka. Unfortunately on the stat sheet, he gets the loss. Hernandez ran out a fastball in the 94-96 mph range, but his control was iffy, especially to the catcher’s arm side. Changeup (83-85) did miss some bats, but it too was left up on occasion.
Omarlin Lopez: Through a quirk, this was only the second time Lopez has pitched at home and I missed the first one. The righty runs a fastball in the low 90s that at times caught a lot of the plate, and the Braves were able to time for hard hit balls. However, Lopez threw a sharp curve that missed 3 bats by my count and another for a called-third strike to retire Jonathan Morales.
Blake Bass: Fastball 91-93, a couple of curves that missed bats and change. Pitched “backwards” to his first hitter Morales, getting him to swing through a pair of curves, but then left an 0-2 fastball over the plate that Morales lined to left.
Josh Altmann: Arriving at the clubhouse a couple of hours prior to game time, he certainly made a first impression with fans in Hickory in the opening inning. Altmann ended the first by slipping on the wet grass in right, then went back and to his right to make a lunging catch of Justin Ellison’s liner to complete the inning. In the third, Altmann showed a bullet of an arm by running down Luke Dykstra’s bloop single along the line in right, then fired a bullet to Yeyson Yrizarri at second than was easily ahead of Dykstra.
Middle infield: Errors on what should’ve been inning-ending double plays proved costly. Ibanez in the fourth was unable to make a play to his left. Yrizarri at short got to a roller up the middle in the eighth, but in his haste to make a play at second, he booted the ball.