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Game Thread: Mitch Keller, Take 2

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds - Game Two
Mitch Keller
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Mitch Keller makes his second major league start for the Pirates as they take on right-hander Mike Soroka (7-1, 1.38) of the Braves at 7:20 p.m. Eastern at SunTrust Park near Atlanta.

Jordan Lyles this week joining Trevor Williams and James Taillon on the Injured List necessitated that the Pirates’ front office reach into Triple-A for their top pitching prospect to plug the gaping holes in a depleted starting rotation.

Mitch Keller received the same call earlier, making his major league debut in Cincinnati on May 27, but the Reds were not kind to Keller, tagging him with a grand slam as part of a six run first inning en route to a 8-1 Cincinnati victory. Keller, however, shook it off, working three additional innings with a run while striking out seven.

Sent back to Triple-A after that start, Keller did not sulk, allowing only two runs on four hits and five walks in eleven innings in his two starts since. In his most recent start at Toledo, Keller fanned fifteen batters in five one-hit innings, at one point striking out twelve of thirteen batters.

Keller’s been tougher on right-handed batters, holding them to a .687 OPS compared to .741 by left-hander, but he’s struck out left-handed batters at a 34% clip, compared to 28% vs right-handers.

Tonight Keller will be facing a Braves lineup that’s blasted five home runs in each of the first two games of the series.

The Braves will send their own rookie sensation to the mound, 21 year old Mike Soroka, who made five starts late last year and after beginning 2019 in the minors, where he made two starts, was recalled on April 18 and in his ten starts for the Braves has an ERA of 1.38, which would rank second in the majors, if not for falling two innings short of qualifying.

The six foot, five inch, 225 pound Soroka was selected 28th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft from a high school in Calgary, Alberta, reaching the majors three years and three months later, posting a 2.84 ERA in 370 minor league innings.

Soroka’s two-seam fastball averages 92.4 mph to which he adds a slider on 25% of the time, along with an occasional change. He’s struck out only 7.7 batters per nine innings, but has surrendered just one home run in 65 innings over ten starts.

In his MLB career right-hander batters have put up an anemic 185/248/250 batting line against Soroka, a 498 OPS built on a .232 BABIP while only a 20% k-rate. Left-handers do better but still way below average with a 637 OPS on a 243/313/324 line with a much better .314 BABIP.

Soroka will face four left-handed bats in the Pirates’ line up, with the right-handed Jung-ho Kang replacing Colin Moran at third.

With the exception of Tyler Flowers at catcher, the Braves will use the same lineup as they have in each of their five games against the Pirates.

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PIRATES

1 R Kevin Newman SS

2 L Corey Dickerson LF

3 R Starling Marte CF

4 S Josh Bell 1B

5 S Melky Cabrera RF

6 R Jung-ho Kang 3B

7 L Adam Frazier 2B

8 R Elias Diaz C

9 R Mitch Keller RHP

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BRAVES

1 R Ronald Acuna CF

2 R Dansby Swanson SS

3 L Freddie Freeman 1B

4 R Josh Donaldson 3B

5 L Nick Markakis RF

6 R Austin Riley LF

7 S Ozzie Albies 2B

8 R Tyler Flowers C

9 R Mike Soroka RHP