Reds' Roark renews rivalry with Braves

Field Level Media

The Atlanta Braves didn't really mind seeing Tanner Roark traded to the Cincinnati Reds.

Now they'll only have to see the right-hander a couple of times each year rather than face him multiple times, as they did when he pitched for the National League East rival Washington Nationals.

Roark (1-0, 3.60 ERA) takes the mound for the Reds on Wednesday when they host the Braves in the second game of a three-game series at the Great American Ball Park. He will be opposed by Atlanta right-hander Mike Soroka (0-1, 1.80).

The Reds won the series opener 7-6 on Tuesday behind home runs from Yasiel Puig and Tucker Barnhart.

Roark, obtained in an offseason deal with Washington, was almost lost in the Nationals' deep rotation. However, he shined when given the chance to face Atlanta. In 23 career appearances, 16 of them starts, against the Braves, Roark is 8-5 with a 3.09 ERA. In 116 1/3 innings vs. Atlanta, he has struck out 77 and walked 33.

Last season, Roark was 2-2 with a 4.19 ERA in four games, three starts, against the Braves. He beat Atlanta in his final start of 2018, going 5 1/3 innings and allowing two runs in a 6-4 Washington victory.

Roark defeated the San Diego Padres on April 18 in his most recent outing. He worked 5 1/3 innings and allowed one run on four hits, striking out five and walking two. He has yet to allow more than three runs in a game this season, and he has given up exactly one run in each of his past two starts.

Barnhart praised Roark after the right-hander's last start.

"He was on all night," the catcher said. "He was able to get both breaking balls over, and they had to honor that. He had fastball command, and they had to honor that. He was able to throw right-on-right changeups. He was nasty."

Several Atlanta hitters have fared well against Roark. First baseman Freddie Freeman is hitting .311 vs. Roark with five doubles, center fielder Ender Inciarte is batting .400 with two doubles, a triple and a home run, and right fielder Nick Markakis has taken Roark deep three times.

Soroka was chosen in the first round of the 2015 draft (28th overall) and made his major league debut last year. The 6-foot-5 Canadian moved rapidly through the organization and made five starts for Atlanta in 2018 before being shut down. Soroka was 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA and struck out 21 in 25 2/3 innings last year.

He started this season with Triple-A Gwinnett after shoulder inflammation slowed his spring, but he was promoted last week and placed in the rotation. Soroka was sharp in his first opportunity with Atlanta this year, allowing only one run in five innings of a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday.

Soroka struck out six, walked two and threw 58 of his 85 pitches for strikes.

"I think the most encouraging part was being able to stay calm and dig deep when it mattered," Soroka said. "That fifth inning, that's where you can make a difference and give your team a chance to win the game."

Soroka might retain his place in the rotation with another good start, or he could be moved to the bullpen once veteran Mike Foltynewicz returns from the injured list. Foltynewicz, sidelined due to an elbow ailment, is scheduled to make his season debut on Saturday against Colorado.

--Field Level Media

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