Joakim Soria just isn’t fooling anyone.
On Monday, he gave up a two-run homer to Torii Hunter with one out in the ninth inning, giving him three straight blown saves. He went on to allow one more run before escaping the ninth in what turned out to be a 10-8 loss to the Angels.
Soria has blown five saves at all. It’s been obvious all year that his stuff was off, yet he still had a 3.86 ERA before his recent streak. It’s only now that he’s gotten pummeled: in his last four appearances, he’s given up eight runs and three homers, taking his ERA up to 6.55.
The homer today came on a 2-0 fastball that he grooved right down the middle. He’s currently averaging 90.4 mph with his heater, down from 91.9 mph last year. That alone isn’t the root of his problems, though. Soria has lost his curveball, and the little slider he’s turned to as its replacement just isn’t a quality offering.
With the latest blown save, the Royals had no choice but to make a move in the closer’s role, and manager Ned Yost said after Monday’s game that Soria would be pulled for now and that rookie Aaron Crow would get save chances. The hope is that it’s a temporary change, but given that Soria has gone two months without finding his previous form, it doesn’t look like there’s going to be a quick fix.
Pirates first baseman John Jaso hit for the cycle on Wednesday night against the Cubs, becoming the first Pirate to do so since Daryl Ward against the Cardinals on May 26, 2004. It’s the third cycle of the 2016 season, as Jaso joins Freddie Freeman and Rajai Davis.
Jaso singled in the second inning for his first hit. He smashed a three-run homer in the fourth inning to break a 1-1 tie. He hit an RBI double in the fifth to push the Cubs’ lead to 5-1. Then, in the seventh, Jaso hit an RBI triple to make it an 8-4 game.
Coming into Wednesday night, Jaso was hitting an adequate .259/.342/.384 with six home runs and 35 RBI in 416 plate appearances. He’s been limited mostly to right-handed pitching as the Pirates have used David Freese and Josh Bell at the position as well.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to 30 games with a single to center field in the bottom of the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s win against the Phillies. Prior to that at-bat, he had grounded out, been hit by a pitch, and walked.
Freeman entered Wednesday night batting .382/.477/.673 with 11 doubles, seven home runs, 27 RBI, and 24 runs scored over his past 29 games. Though his numbers are lacking compared to National League MVP Award favorite Kris Bryant, Freeman will get some top-five votes. On the season, he entered Wednesday hitting .307/.404/.576 with 33 home runs, 88 RBI, and 99 runs scored in 673 plate appearances.
Freeman’s 30-game hitting streak is the longest such streak in the majors this season, according to ESPN Stats & Info. He has also reached base safely in 46 consecutive games.