ORACLE PARK — Andrew Suarez stepped onto the mound at Oracle Park at 6:45 p.m. on Monday evening ready for his first start of the season with the Giants.
After not making the club out of spring training, one of San Francisco’s most dependable starters of 2018 struggled through injury and command issues at Triple-A Sacramento, posting a 6.33 ERA.
The Giants, needing another starter, called him up anyway on Monday morning to face the Atlanta Braves, and he was greeted by a Ronald Acuña Jr. leadoff home run on his first pitch of the game. His opposite number, Mike Soroka, was unhittable for the first five innings and powered Atlanta to a 4-1 win in the first of a four-game series.
“[Soroka] was good,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He was really good. Every pitch he makes, he locates well, he’s been on a good roll and had another great game tonight.”
Soroka won his fifth game in his last six, tossing eight strong innings, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out seven. He took a perfect game into the sixth, spoiled when Brandon Crawford drilled a solo home run to center to lead off the inning.
“He’s got deception and he’s got velocity,” Bochy said of Soroka. “The two-seamer, he pitched up when he wanted to tonight. He’s got the changeup that’s quite a bit slower than his fastball, that’s a tough pitch, and he established the fastball early. He’s been throwing the ball great.”
Crawford had both of the Giants’ hits, as the rest of the San Francisco lineup couldn’t solve the big righty, a one-time commit to the Cal Golden Bears before the Braves picked him 28th overall in the 2015 draft.
“Offensively, we just completely shut down,” Bochy said. “[Crawford] got our two hits, that’s a pretty good night. Three-nothing game, he made it 3-1. But, at that time, at that point, we weren’t doing much, a lot of soft contact.”
Suarez didn’t back down after the leadoff homer though. He didn’t allow a hit after Acuña’s home run until Freddie Freeman’s two-out single in the third, then held the Braves hitless for another inning before Acuña’s two-out double in the fifth.
However, Suarez came undone in the sixth inning, walking Nick Markakis with two outs before Austin Riley made him pay with a two-run home run to put Atlanta up 3-0.
“I wish I got that back, I just left it down the middle,” Suarez said. “I felt fine today. I just thought I was rushing a little bit at first and my fastball command was not good, but I just had to grind it out.”
Suarez allowed three runs on four hits with the two home runs, while striking out five batters on the night.
“I tell you what, Suarez, after [the leadoff home run], he pitched great,” Bochy said of his starter. “You’re only down one run, so he did what we were hoping and kept us in the game, gave us a chance. He was a strike away from a great start. He had a quality start, but he could’ve had a great one and he lost Markakis, had him 0-2, and the next hitter 0-2, and hung a breaking ball and made a mistake there. But, overall, a nice game, gave us a chance to win the game.”
Despite the loss Monday night, Bochy expects to keep Suarez, 26, in the rotation going forward. He started 29 games last year for the Giants, going 7-13 with a 4.49 ERA. After he didn’t make the big league team out of Spring Training, he went 2-3 with a 6.33 ERA in six starts, missing time with a hamstring injury.
“With Andrew coming back up here I’m sure there was a shot of adrenaline for him,” Bochy explained. “I’m sure he’s disappointed he didn’t break with us, so he came up with a sense of determination to go there and throw a good ball game.
“He’s a good competitor and he’s got good stuff. His stuff looks pretty close to what it was last year and tonight was a good effort by him.”
“I haven’t been throwing well in Triple-A, so I had to come up here and pretty much step it up,” Suarez added. “I just try and go out there and give the team the best chance to win.”