Austin Riley homers in MLB debut, Braves blank Cardinals 4-0

St. Louis Cardinals

Michael Wacha #52 of the St. Louis Cardinals poses for a photo during photo days at Roger Dean Stadium on February 21, 2019 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA (AP) _ Austin Riley made quite a splash in his big league debut Wednesday night, homering off Michael Wacha to lead the Atlanta Braves to a 4-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mike Soroka turned in another strong start with three-hit ball over seven scoreless innings, but this night belonged to the 22-year-old Riley.

Another top prospect for the Baby Braves, he was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett before the game after Ender Inciarte went on the 10-day injured list with a sore back.

Riley, who started in left field and batted sixth, struck out swinging in the first at-bat of what the Braves hope will be a long major league career.

Then, leading off the fourth, he flashed the form that helped him lead the International League with 15 homers and 39 RBIs.

Riley launched a high fastball deep into the left-field sets, a 438-foot drive that gave the Braves a 2-0 lead and sent his parents and a group of about 40 family and friends _ many of whom hastily made the drive from his native Mississippi _ into a delirious celebration at SunTrust Park.

Riley hit another drive to the edge of the warning track his next time up, and handled a couple of chances without any problem in left. Normally a third baseman, he figures to mostly play left field at least during his initial stint in the big leagues. Josh Donaldson is locked in at third base for 2019 with a one-year, $23 million deal.

After taking over as a defensive replacement for Riley, Charlie Culberson sealed the victory with a two-run homer in the eighth.

It was quite a showing for Atlanta’s kids.

Even younger than Riley, the 21-year-old Soroka (4-1) lowered his ERA to 0.98 in six starts. The right-hander has yet to allow more than one earned run in any of his appearances, and this was his best one yet.

Soroka escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third, getting Paul Goldschmidt to ground into an inning-ending double play. He stared down another trouble spot in the sixth when the Cardinals put runners at second and third, fanning Jose Martinez to snuff out the threat.

Dan Winkler walked the first two St. Louis hitters in the eighth on eight straight balls, but Luke Jackson worked out of the jam _ this time, it was Paul DeJong hitting into a double play _ and finished up for his fifth save in six chances.

Wacha (3-1) surrendered only four hits and one earned run over five innings. Atlanta also scored when the Cardinals pitcher threw one away at third base after appearing to pick off Ronald Acuna Jr., who was able to trot home when the ball skidded under the glove of Matt Carpenter.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez (shoulder) threw two innings for Double-A Springfield in an 8-2 loss to Arkansas on Wednesday. He allowed one run on four hits, with no wals or strikeouts. St. Louis is hoping Martinez can rejoin the team for a weekend series in Texas.

Braves: Inciarte went on the 10-day injured list with a lumbar strain. He left Tuesday night’s game after experiencing tightness in his lower back and could be out even longer than his required stint on the IL, according to manager Brian Snitker.

UP NEXT

In the rubber game of the series, RHP Adam Wainwright (3-3, 4.15) goes for the Cardinals against Atlanta RHP Julio Teheran (2-4, 4.26). Wainwright, a Georgia native who began his career in the Braves’ organization, will be going for his first win in Atlanta since May 7, 2014, at Turner Field. Teheran, whose last win came on April 14, will be looking for a little run support after failing to get a decision in his last two starts, despite allowing just one run over a total of 12 innings.

About the St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of Major League Baseball’s iconic franchises. The team with the “Birds on the Bat” have won more World Series titles than any other National League club, and are second only to the New York Yankees overall.

St. Louis has been home to a National League franchise since 1892, but the franchise wasn’t known as the Cardinals until 1900.

Behind future Hall of Fame second baseman Rogers Hornsby, the Cardinals won their first World Series in 1926 over the Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig Yankees. The ‘Gashouse Gang’ era Cardinals dominated the 1930s thanks to Dizzy Dean, Johnny Mize and Joe Medwick and won the 1934 World Series.

Did you know that Branch Rickey, who would later rise to fame for bringing Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues and breaking baseball’s color barrier, invented the minor league farm system we know today with the St. Louis Cardinals? It was Rickey who built a system of affiliate teams to grow talent that would later shine in St. Louis. In the 1930s and 1940s, that system produced the likes of future Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and Enos Slaughter, all of whom won World Series championships for the Cardinals.

The Musial-era Cardinals would later give way to a new generation, and it was Bob Gibson and Lou Brock who helped bring the World Series back to St. Louis in the 1960s. Gibson had one of the most dominant seasons in baseball history in 1968. He was so good baseball lowered the mound the following year.

The 1970s saw the end of the Gibson and Brock years, the trade of Steve Carlton to Philadelphia and the arrival of Keith Hernandez. Hernandez would share the 1979 NL MVP award with Pittsburgh’s Willie Stargell.

For the Cardinals, the 1980s could be summed up in a single word: Whiteyball. Behind Manager Whitey Herzog, baseball in St. Louis became synonymous with speed, stolen bases and defense. Shortstop Ozzie Smith was acquired from San Diego, and with Hernandez, second baseman Tommy Herr, a rookie outfielder named Willie McGee and closer Bruce Sutter, the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series over the Milwaukee Brewers. After Hernandez would dealt to the New York Mets, that core of players, along with slugger Jack Clark, would get the Cardinals to two more World Series trips that decade.

The 1980s saw the end of the Gussie Busch ownership era for the Cardinals. When he died in 1989, the Anheuser-Busch brewery took over after nearly 40 years under his watch.

In 1996 the brewery sold the club to the ownership group still led today by Bill DeWitt, Jr. The DeWitt family brought in former Oakland A’s manager Tony LaRussa, who would go on to be the winningest manager in team history. With another former Oakland hand running the front office in Walt Jocketty, the team acquired Mark McGwire from the A’s in 1997. The slugging first baseman would break Roger Maris’ single-season record for Home Runs in 1998 in a chase with Sammy Sosa that captivated the nation, only later to be tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs that McGwire admitted to years later.

In 2001, a young rookie named Albert Pujols burst on the St. Louis scene. Playing all over the field, he was the runaway winner of the National League MVP, setting the stage for the most dominant decade of offensive performance ever seen in a player’s first ten years in Major League Baseball. Catcher Yadier Molina came on board in 2004 as the Cardinals made their first World Series appearance since 1987. Two years later, a rookie pitcher named Adam Wainwright would fill in as the closer on a club that won its first World Series since 1982.

The Cardinals’ third World Series appearance in eight seasons may have been the most improbable when it came in 2011. A team that was left for dead at the start of September managed to roar into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season behind the pitching heroics of Chris Carpenter down the stretch. Once in the playoffs, the legend of David Freese was born. Freese, a St. Louis County native, won the National League Championship Series MVP by slugging three home runs against Milwaukee. Then in the World Series against Texas, down to the team’s last strike in what would have been a Rangers clincher, a Freese triple tied the game. A Freese home run in extra innings forced a Game 7, which the Cardinals won, bringing an 11th World Series crown home.

Albert Pujols left via free agency in the offseason and LaRussa retired, but the Cardinals kept moving forward, reaching the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox with former catcher Mike Matheny now managing the club. In some respects, the Cardinals are still recovering from what happened October 26, 2014, when outfielder Oscar Taveras, considered a potentially generational talent who could have become the face of the franchise, died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

The Matheny era would last 6.5 seasons, until he was replaced by current manager Mike Shildt in 2018.

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