Mike Soroka remembers watching Tigers star Miguel Cabrera take over as arguably the best hitter in the American League eight years ago.
Now, Soroka can remember the day he struck Cabrera out.
Making his second appearance of spring training, Soroka mowed down six Tigers regulars in a perfect two-inning outing Thursday, helping the Braves to a 5-2 win.
“Felt really good,” he said. “That’s the important part. Got out there and felt right at home on the mound, so that was pretty special. Get out there and compete like that.”
Soroka spelled starter Sean Newcomb in the third inning. He got Dixon Machado to ground out, struck out Leodys Martin and made Jose Iglesias hit a roller to third baseman Austin Riley to produce an easy 1-2-3 inning.
Cabrera led off the fourth. His at-bat ended when he was caught staring at a 95-mph fastball.
The now 34-year-old future Hall of Famer has made seven of his 11 All-Star games since Soroka started watching baseball. That includes 2012, when Cabrera became the first player since 1967 to capture the triple crown.
“He’s one of the most respected hitters in the world,” Soroka said. “Some argue the best hitter in the game. I grew up watching him because I started watching baseball when I was about 12, and that’s when he really turned it on. I mean, he was hitting over .300 with 30, 40 bombs a year.”
Soroka wrapped up the fourth with ground outs from Nick Castellanos and Victor Martinez, both of whom hit homers in the second inning.
When Soroka was leaving the field, he met Cabrera for the first time.
“That’s kind of my first experience getting up with a guy you idolized when you’re young,” Soroka said. “Being able to attack him with my best stuff. Show him what I got. I got to shake his hand quick after I came out of the game. That meant so much to me. Just to see him smile and say ‘good job out there.’ That’s pretty special.”
It was a night and day difference, on the surface, from how Soroka’s first outing went against Houston on Feb. 24. Yuli Gurriel homered off him on a 2-2 count. Soroka then hit Jon Kemmer before setting in to retire the next three.
But Thursday was actually a matter of same process, different result, according to Soroka. He felt no different than he did five days ago.
“The home run, those are going to happen,” Soroka said. “These are some of the best hitters in the world, right? Especially to a guy who was doing it a few months ago in the World Series. The hit batter was a fastball up and in that kind of creeped over a little bit. It was a two-strike fastball that wasn’t where it was supposed to be. And then after that I re-collected fine and felt really much of the same.
“So as far as results in that game and this game, I think you can kind of see parallels between the two if you watch pitch-by-pitch. So just being able to carry over that consistency in this game, and obviously get results, is pretty awesome as well.”