Braves overpower Phillies to split series; Mike Soroka will start Monday

AP photo by Brynn Anderson / Matt Olson celebrates after hitting a two-run homer for the Atlanta Braves in the fifth inning of Sunday night's home win against the Philadelphia Phillies.

ATLANTA — Given a seven-run lead in the first inning Sunday night, hard-throwing right-hander Spencer Strider could relax and keep adding to his strikeout total, already the best in Major League Baseball's 2023 season to this point.

"That game felt like it was over pretty quick," Strider said.

Ronald Acuña Jr. drove in three runs with four hits, including a two-run single in Atlanta's seven-run first, and the Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 11-4 to split the four-game series between National League East Division rivals.

"Getting a lead first is big, especially when you get that big of a lead," Strider said. "... When we're putting up runs, my job isn't to be perfect. My job is to get outs."

After the game, Braves manager Brian Snitker announced right-hander Michael Soroka will be recalled to make his first start since the 2020 season on Monday night, when Atlanta opens a three-game series against the host Oakland Athletics.

Matt Olson hit a pair of two-run homers for Atlanta against the Phillies, and Strider became the fastest pitcher in modern history to reach 100 strikeouts in a season.

"It's incredible," Acuña, speaking through a translator, said of Strider. "Every time he goes out to pitch, it seems like he's going to strike everybody out."

Acuña hit an RBI triple in the fifth before Olson's second homer to center. Acuña had two singles in the first when the Braves sent 11 batters to the plate, collected seven hits and opened a 7-0 lead. Led by Acuña and Olson, who had three hits, the Braves set a season high with 20 total.

Strider (5-2) struck out nine batters while pitching six innings of two-run ball. The 24-year-old fired a called third strike past Nick Castellanos for the first out of the fourth, giving him 100 strikeouts in 61 innings and topping Jacob deGrom's 61 2/3 innings in 2021 as the fastest to 100 in the modern era.

"It's cool," Strider said. "Hopefully it'll keep going."

Olson followed Acuña's leadoff single with a 464-foot homer to right-center. Austin Riley added another homer before Ozzie Albies and Acuña had two-run singles in the long first inning.

Phillies shortstop Trea Turner and left fielder Kyle Schwarber each committed an error on a grounder by Orlando Arcia, setting up two unearned runs in the inning.

Strider walked Kody Clemens to open the third. Brandon Marsh followed with a two-run homer for the Phillies' first hit. Schwarber hit a two-run homer off Collin McHugh in the seventh.

Atlanta's Michael Harris II celebrated the one-year anniversary of his MLB debut by robbing Schwarber of a homer with a leaping catch at the center-field wall in the second. As Harris shook his head to say "No!" after coming down with the ball on the warning track, Strider pumped his fist in approval on the mound — after realizing Harris had the ball.

"He put me through an emotional roller coaster for a moment," Strider said.

Phillies right-hander Dylan Covey (0-1), claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 20, didn't make it through the first inning. Covey allowed seven runs, five earned, and six hits, including the homers by Olson and Riley.

Soroka's return

Soroka was scratched from his scheduled start at Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday, setting the stage for his final step in his comeback from two torn Achilles' tendons.

"To get back is really a feather in that kid's cap," Snitker said.

Soroka will be making his first start in the majors since Aug. 3, 2020, against the New York Mets when he tore his right Achilles' tendon. After a setback that required a follow-up surgery, he tore the same Achilles' tendon midway through the 2021 season.

Soroka faced another complication in his comeback when a hamstring injury slowed his progress this spring.

Acuña said he was "super happy, super excited for him, super proud of him" and added "I'm just hoping for continued good health."

Soroka looked like an emerging ace when he finished 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 2019 and placed second in the NL rookie of the year voting and sixth in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

The Braves are 0-3 in bullpen committee games as they attempt to overcome losing two key starters, Max Fried (strained left forearm) and Kyle Wright (right shoulder inflammation) to the injured list in early May. Each is expected to miss at least two months.

Right-hander Dereck Rodriguez, who gave up one hit in two scoreless innings, was optioned to Gwinnett after the game to clear a roster spot.

Soroka was 1-2 with a 4.33 ERA in eight games with Gwinnett. He allowed a combined four hits and two runs over 10 2/3 innings in his past two starts.