Tuesday for the Atlanta Braves at the Rogers Centre will be like making a second debut.
The 20-year-old from Calgary will be making his fifth major league start [b][url=http://www.bearscheapstores.com/david-montgomery-jersey-cheap]David Montgomery Jersey[/url][/b] , but Tuesday night in the opener of a two-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays he will be pitching against the team he grew up watching and with friends in attendance.
Soroka (2-1, 2.57 ERA) will be facing Blue Jays left-hander Jaime Garcia (2-5, 5.71), who is 3-1 with a 3.62 ERA in eight career starts against Atlanta.
It also will be a return for first-year Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who was the Blue Jays GM from October 2009 through 2015.
“Even though I’m from the other side of Canada, it’s the one team you grew up watching,” Soroka told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’ll be pretty special.”
He has pitched before at the Rogers Centre, as a 15-year-old in a tournament.
“It’s almost like a second debut of sorts,” Soroka said. “Just get out there, knowing that a bunch of friends are going to be coming there, a lot of friends who’ve been Blue Jays fans for a long time too. … I’m just going to be familiar with the Rogers Centre, so that’s going to be cool too. And I’ll be out there on a mound I’ve been on before too, so that’s pretty awesome.”
Soroka is coming off his best major league outing. After spending a month on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a 2-0 win over the New York Mets Wednesday. He left after 6 1/3 innings, allowing one hit and one walk and adding four strikeouts.
Soroka does not expect to feel more excitement in this start Tuesday than he did in his previous four.
“There’s a certain amount of amped up you can have in the big leagues,” Soroka said. “I don’t think I’ll be any more amped up than I was my last four [b][url=http://www.bearscheapstores.com/riley-ridley-jersey-cheap]http://www.bearscheapstores.com/riley-ridley-jersey-cheap[/url][/b] , especially because it’s a new thing right now. I don’t think I’m running short on adrenalin.”
The Braves (42-29) are in first place in the National League East. They have won two in a row and six of their past eight after defeating the San Diego Padres 4-1 Sunday.
The Blue Jays (33-38) have won three in a row and seven of their past 10 games after completing a three-game sweep Sunday with an 8-6 win over the Washington Nationals, who are second in the NL East.
The Blue Jays have won seven straight home games for the first time since July 2-8, 2016. After struggling at home earlier in the season, they are now 19-19 at the Rogers Centre. They are 6-2 against the NL this season.
Toronto right fielder Randal Grichuk, an early-season disappointment who also spent time on the disabled list with a right knee sprain, had two solo home runs and four RBIs Sunday in going 3-for-3 with a walk. He has hit five homers in his past 12 games.
“I feel like we’ve found a lot of consistency when we’ve been playing here lately,” Grichuk said of the Blue Jays’ recent success at home. “Obviously that (0-3) Tampa Bay series (against the Rays at Tropicana Field) threw a wrench at us, but I feel like we’re swinging the bat well, and when our pitchers go out and give us a chance to win, we’ve been doing a good job of being able to score and get some leads. Hopefully that just continues.”
Another early-season disappointment, Toronto second baseman Devon Travis was 2-for-4 with a double Sunday and is batting .345 (20-for-58) with three homers and eight RBIs in his past 19 games.
The timing of a possible return from the disabled list of third baseman Josh Donaldson (tight left calf) is not known yet.
The Braves, meanwhile, will have catcher Kurt Suzuki available for the game Tuesday. He was struck in the head on a backswing during the second inning Sunday at SunTrust Park and left the game. Tests indicated that he did not have a concussion.
“It was kind of a precautionary thing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He got hit good. The doctors wanted to look at him and I’m sure he wanted to come back out. But something like that is not something you want to mess with.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t faced the New England Patriots in a game that matters in more than two years. That’s OK. They know a pretty good place to go to get a heads up on their opponent in the AFC title game. ”We need the notes the Steelers have on the Patriots because they were doing a lot of advanced scouting,” safety Barry Church said Sunday after the Jaguars stunned Pittsburgh 45-42 to earn a trip to Foxborough next weekend to face the defending Super Bowl champions. ”We need all the notes they got on the Patriots. Other than that, it’s time to roll to New England baby.”
With their brute force rookie running back [b][url=http://www.cowboyscheapauthenticstore.com/trysten-hill-jersey-cheap]http://www.cowboyscheapauthenticstore.com/trysten-hill-jersey-cheap[/url][/b] , their enigmatic quarterback and more than a little bit of swagger in tow.
”You can do all the talking you want on Twitter, to the media, all of that,” Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. ”But when you get on the field you’re going to have to produce, you’re going to have to show us what you’re about. We’re confident because we know the work we put in. We’re going to go out there confident.”
Ticked off by several Steelers openly talking about a rematch with the Patriots with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line, the Jaguars took it out on Pittsburgh one touchdown at a time. They earned the franchise’s third trip to the conference championship game in the process.
Now it’s on to New England, a place they’ve never won and where the Patriots hung 51 on them in 2015. But that was before coach Doug Marrone put together the NFL’s best defense. Before Leonard Fournette arrived. Before Blake Bortles embraced his role as the enigmatic touchstone for a team that suddenly looks like a threat on both sides of the ball.
Third-seeded Jacksonville (12-6) never trailed and was only rarely threatened on an afternoon it matched the most points the Steelers have given up in their storied playoff history. Fournette churned for 109 yards and three scores . Bortles bounced back from an ugly performance against Buffalo by throwing for 214 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to at least temporarily hit mute on his critics.
”I have no animosity against anyone who said anything,” Bortles said. ”I’m happy to be able to come here and do this with this team. There are a lot of guys on the couch watching this.”
That group now will include the Steelers. Pittsburgh (13-4) lost at home in the divisional round for the second time in 11 tries, unable to overcome a sluggish start that allowed the Jaguars to take a 21-point lead.
The Steelers only had the ball with a chance to tie once over the final three quarters, the lone shot evaporating when Ben Roethlisberger threw incomplete on fourth-and-1 at the Jacksonville 39 early in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars responded with a drive that culminated in Fournette’s third touchdown, and that was it.
Roethlisberger, who finished with 469 yards passing and a franchise-record five touchdowns , said he will be back in 2018, though the sting of a stunning upset will linger into an offseason longer than planned.
”If you don’t win the Super Bowl, you’ve underachieved, right?” Roethlisberger said. ”Because that is always our goal. It wasn’t our day. It wasn’t our year.”
JUGGERNAUT JAGUARS: Though Jacksonville’s offense has endured dry spells this season [b][url=http://www.cowboyscheapauthenticstore.com/connor-mcgovern-jersey-cheap]Connor McGovern Jersey[/url][/b] , the Jaguars did finish the regular season fifth in scoring. While the defense chipped in a touchdown on a 48-yard fumble return by linebacker Telvin Smith, Bortles kept the Jaguars moving. Jacksonville converted 8 of 14 third downs and its lone fourth-down conversion came on Fournette’s 1-yard leap in the first quarter.
”All week everybody was talking about our offense wasn’t going to do good, they were going to shut down our offense,” Jacksonville linebacker Myles Jack said. ”As you saw, Blake Bortles, he was hitting the open man. He had a plethora of big throws. Fournette was running the ball the hardest I’ve seen them. The offense did a hell of a job.”
INSPIRING STEELER: Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier tried to rally the Steelers with a halftime visit to their locker room.
Shazier, who underwent surgery to stabilize his spine last month, spoke with his teammates as they were fighting back from a 28-14 deficit. Still in a wheelchair during his recovery, Shazier was also around following the 45-42 loss, a stunning setback that concluded a challenging season for the AFC North champions.
The 25-year-old Shazier has made significant progress, but his playing future remains uncertain because of the injury he suffered making a routine tackle on Dec. 4 against Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh’s crowd roared when Shazier was shown on the Heinz Field scoreboard in the third quarter.
UNDERACHIEVERS: Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown returned from a left calf injury to catch seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns . Yet, the only player in NFL history with five consecutive 100-catch seasons will again watch the Super Bowl at home.
”We cannot seem to get the job done,” Brown said. ”That’s what’s so sad about the journey. You come so close.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed.
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