Major League Baseball

Rookie starters face off for Braves, Pirates

mlb8PIRATES (30-36) AT BRAVES (38-29)
7:20 p.m. ET; FSSE, ATTSN-PT, MLB.TV

Atlanta rookie pitcher Mike Soroka will see if he can continue his season-long run of success on Wednesday when he faces the Pittsburgh Pirates, who will recall top pitching prospect Mitch Keller to make his second career start.

Soroka (7-1, 1.38 ERA) will be opposed by Keller (0-1, 13.50) in the third game of a four-game series at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.

The Braves have won the first two games of the series, including a 7-5 victory on Tuesday in a contest that was called after eight innings because of rain. The Braves have won five straight, and the Pirates have lost five in a row.

Keller, the Pirates’ second-round draft choice in 2014, made his major league debut on May 27 in Cincinnati. He gave up six runs in the first inning before settling down to throw three scoreless innings.

Keller made two quality starts for Triple-A Indianapolis since being sent back down, and he struck out a career-high 13 against Toledo on Friday in his most recent outing. In 11 Triple-A starts this year, Keller is 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 58 innings.

“If I just execute my pitches and everything’s on, I belong,” Keller said. “I know I can do it. Just going from there. … Continue to look to the future and see what I can do better to get through those innings.”

Keller is being forced into the rotation because of a series of injuries and disappointments. Rookie Davis is on the 10-day injured list with a blister on his middle finger, and Trevor Williams (right side strain) needs one more minor league rehab start before his return. Jameson Taillon (right elbow flexor strain) has yet to begin throwing, and the team designated Nick Kingham for assignment on Saturday.

Soroka bounced back from his worst performance of the season on June 1 to take a shutout into the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins($14) on Friday. He was lifted after walking the leadoff batter, who eventually scored against the Atlanta bullpen. In eight innings, he allowed three hits and two walks while striking out six, and he lowered his ERA to 1.38.

Soroka was pleased to be given an opportunity to complete the game, even if he came up short.

“Just to have the confidence, just to be able to look over and see that, you know, I’m still the guy in that situation and to be able to go out there and understand what that feels like to get the last few outs of the game,” Soroka said. “Obviously, not the result I was looking for, but it’s amazing to have that confidence from your manager.”

Soroka allowed four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers($13) on June 1, a game he still won. That was the first time he had allowed more than one earned run this season. Soroka has not lost since his first appearance of the season on April 18 against the Arizona Diamondbacks($12).

He will be facing Pittsburgh for the first time in his career on Wednesday.

“Nothing he does surprises me,” Atlanta center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. said. “He’s a tremendous pitcher. Obviously, we had to go through the minor league system together, so I was able to watch him as he continued to develop. Nothing surprises me at this point.”

–Field Level Media

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