With the All-Star break inching closer and closer, the Atlanta Braves have a bit of a long road trip before sending a franchise record of nine players to Seattle for the All-Star Game. The Braves were in Cleveland this week for a three-game series against the Guardians at Progressive Field and despite losing game two on a walk-off, the Braves won the final game of the series 8-1, taking two of three from Cleveland in a mid-week series during the Fourth of July celebrations.
The Braves offense started things off hot in the first inning. Ozzie Albies hit a single, followed by an Austin Riley single which put runners at the corners, and Matt Olson would hit an RBI, letting Albies score to put the Braves up 1-0. Sean Murphy hit his own RBI to allow Riley to score and put the Braves ahead 2-0 in the top of the first inning.
The Braves dominance in the first inning wouldn't stop there. During Eddie Rosario's at-bat, he launched a double to the outfield that allowed Olson and Murphy to score and gave the Braves a 4-0 lead in just the first inning.
This season, the Braves have a major league-best 91 runs in the first inning. At their current pace, the Braves have a pretty good chance at breaking the MLB record for first-inning runs in a season, which was previously set by the Boston Red Sox in 1950, with 160 first-inning runs.
Michael Soroka was named the starting pitcher for Wednesday night's game in his first season with the team since 2019. He got himself into a sticky situation in the bottom of the second inning, where there were runners at second and third with no outs. However, he was able to strike two batters out while Orlando Arcia threw out Cleveland runner Steven Kwan at first base with a miraculous catch and throw for the final out.
After the explosiveness of the first inning, things slowed down until the top of the third innings, when Murphy smashed a solo home run to put the Braves up 5-0. With Murphy's homer, the Braves have hit a homer run in 23-straight games, the longest streak in MLB this season.
Soroka continued to show struggles on the mound during his return from injury. In the bottom of the third inning, Soroka allowed a walk before hitting Guardians batter Andres Gimenez in the ankle, causing him to go down in pain for a bit before getting back up and into the game. This put a runner at first and second base for Cleveland. Luckily, Soroka was able to get out of the jams for the most part and the Braves' defense was able to keep the Guardians from touching home plate.
While Soroka had his own struggles, Cleveland's starting pitcher Cal Quantrill also had his own struggles against a hot Braves offense. He was relieved in the top of the fifth inning after Olson singled while Murphy doubled, allowing 11 hits, five earned runs, and a 6.45 ERA in Wednesday night's contest.
Meanwhile, Soroka ended his night after pitching 4.2 innings, with Michael Tonkin replacing him on the mound. In Wednesday's matchup, Soroka allowed five hits, zero earned runs, and three walks, while recording four strikeouts and a 5.31 ERA.
The Braves' defense did a really good job at keeping the Guardians from advancing the bases, with Cleveland going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Meanwhile, back on the offensive side, Austin Riley hit his 16th homer of the season to increase the Braves lead to 6-0 in Cleveland in the top of the seventh.
That wasn't the last of the homers on Wednesday however, as Olson hit his own home run in the top of the ninth to make it 7-0 Braves. With bases loaded, the Guardians allowed Michael Harris II to hit a single, allowing Murphy to score to make it a massive 8-0 Braves lead.
The Guardians finally got their first run of the game in the bottom of the ninth, when Cleveland's Amed Rosario was grounded out to first base by Braves reliever Ben Heller, allowing Steven Kwan to score and make it 8-1. In the end, the Braves won the rubber match in Cleveland, with Atlanta now sitting at a 58-28 overall record for the season, the best record in all of MLB.
One of the biggest standouts in Wednesday's game was Sean Murphy, who joins Javy Lopez as the only two Braves catchers to record 15+ home runs and 50+ RBIs through a team's first 86 games. Meanwhile, Soroka put up one of his better performances in his return this season but has still noticeably struggled on the mound. As for the Guardians, they allowed the most hits in Progressive Field since 2016, allowing 19 hits overall against the Braves.
With the series conclusion, there, unfortunately, won't be another home game at Truist Park for a hot minute. The Braves travel to Tampa Bay to start a three-game series with the Rays this Friday, July 7th, before the start of the All-Star break on July 10th.