Walker’s 2-run HR helps Diamondbacks sweep Braves, 4-1
ATLANTA (AP) — Christian Walker had no reason to panic when he struck out in his first three at-bats.
As always, the rookie was saving his best swings for last.
Walker continued his remarkable late-innings production with a two-run homer in the seventh, Luke Weaver got Arizona off to a good start and the Diamondbacks beat the Atlanta Braves 4-1 on Thursday to complete a three-game sweep.
Walker lined the opposite-field homer to right-center off Chad Sobotka following a single by Adam Jones. It was Walker’s sixth homer — all in the seventh inning or later.
Walker said Braves starter Mike Soroka’s exit after five innings gave him a fresh outlook.
“For some reason he had my number,” Walker said. “… I just tried to re-start and check back into the game. I kept telling myself I’m going to help the team today, one way or the other.”
Walker added a double in the ninth and is hitting .619 (13 for 21) after the sixth inning.
Weaver (1-1) struck out nine in five scoreless innings, fanning the last five batters he faced. He allowed four hits.
The Diamondbacks have won four straight, including their first sweep of the Braves since 2016.
Arizona led 4-0 before Freddie Freeman led off the eighth with a homer against Matt Andriese.
Yoshihisa Hirano, who earned the win in the opening game of the series, gave up a one-out single to Ender Inciarte in the ninth. Hirano struck out pinch-hitter Josh Donaldson and ended the game on Ozzie Albies’ flyball for his first save.
Soroka (0-1) allowed one run in five innings in his 2019 debut. Braves starters had a 2.50 ERA in the series, allowing five earned runs in 18 innings. Atlanta relievers allowed nine earned runs in 10 innings for an 8.10 ERA while losing closer Arodys Vizcaino to season-ending shoulder surgery.
“We’ve just got to grind through it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “On the back end of things like this is something really good if you handle it.”
Pinch-hitter Nick Ahmed’s double drove in Tim Locastro in Arizona’s three-run seventh.
Soroka escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth. After an intentional walk to Jones loaded the bases, Soroka struck out Walker and ended the inning on Ketel Marte’s grounder to first base.
Diamondbacks: LHP T.J. McFarland (left shoulder inflammation) had his scheduled rehab stint at Triple-A Reno postponed by rain Wednesday and pushed back to a doubleheader Thursday.
Braves: Soroka said he has fully recovered after being shut down in spring training with right shoulder tendinitis and missing the final three months last season, also with a sore shoulder. He said he has learned how to avoid future shoulder problems. … RHP Shane Carle was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to clear a roster spot for Soroka.
Walker’s six homers in the seventh or later are tied with the Mets’ Pete Alonso for the most in the majors. Walker already is close to matching the team rookie record for such homers in a season. Travis Lee (1998) and Chris Young (2007) each had seven.
Inciarte, running toward the infield, made a diving catch in center field of a sinking liner hit by Ildemaro Vargas in the sixth with runners on first and second.
Ronald Acuña Jr. singled to left field in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to nine games. He struck out three times. Acuña’s longest hitting streak was 11 games last season as a rookie.
Diamondbacks: Arizona’s 10-game road trip next includes a series at Wrigley Field starting Friday when rookie RHP Merrill Kelly (1-1, 3.79) faces the Cubs.
Braves: RHP Touki Toussaint (1-0, 0.00) will make his second start of the season when the Braves open a three-game series at Cleveland on Friday night. Toussaint, originally scheduled to start on Thursday, had the outing pushed back to give him extra rest.