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AP photo by Curtis Compton / Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker, left, and a trainer help pitcher Mike Soroka off the field after he tore an Achilles' tendon during Monday night's home game against the New York Mets.

"Oh, no."

"Oh, no."

Television announcer Chip Caray uttered those words twice Monday evening as he watched replays of Atlanta Braves pitcher Mike Soroka falling to the Truist Park grass in extreme pain after tearing his right Achilles' tendon during a 7-2 loss to the New York Mets.

It was a sentiment surely repeated throughout Braves Country, along with a few words that can't be repeated in a family newspaper. And not just because Soroka is a terrific young talent and person, but also because in an already shortened season, the loss of a pitcher the quality of Soroka — who was 13-4 with a stunning 2.68 ERA as a rookie in 2019 — makes Atlanta's attempt to win a third straight National League East Division title much more difficult.

Or as Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday afternoon: "We're determined to win as many games as we can and win the World Series. Mike Soroka certainly helps those chances a lot. It's a huge loss, there's no way to understate that."

Indeed, on a team that seems overly blessed with talent at almost every position save starting pitching, the quality of those Braves starters has been a concern throughout the extended offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Soroka — who earned a spot in last season's MLB All-Star Game, finished second in NL Rookie of the Year balloting to the Mets' Pete Alonso and was sixth in Cy Young Award voting — was one of two exceptions to those concerns, along with Max Fried.

Now Soroka is done for the year, and hopefully only this year, and Anthopoulos is in the unenviable position of trying to shore up his already suspect starting rotation in a season that's nearly 20% done.

"It's hard to make trades in any year," Anthopoulos told the AJC. "It's hard to line up on a deal. Then you have the added layers of what we're dealing with now. It makes it that much more complicated. As I'm sitting here today, the likelihood is that we're going to continue to stay internal. But at the same time, we'll continue inquiring and see if we can line up on some kind of deal."

It is the Braves' buzzards' luck — is there any other kind in 2020? — that neither of Atlanta's somewhat inspired offseason pitching acquisitions, Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez, is currently available. COVID-19 caused Hernandez to opt out of the season and Hamels won't be eligible to pitch until September due to injury.

And if the Braves know who'll replace Soroka for Saturday's game at Philadelphia, they aren't yet saying.

What many in Braves Country are surely thinking is whether or not an awkward stumble off the mound last week by Soroka could have in any way contributed to this, as well as what role a much shorter spring training may be playing in a lot of these early injuries throughout the game, given that the Mets had three players sustain injuries on Monday, though theirs were all far less serious.

Regardless, to put Soroka's worth to this team in perspective, consider these words from four-time All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman late Monday: "When you lose one of the top pitching arms in this entire game for the whole season, it's pretty tough. He was just about to take off. He was unbelievable as a rookie last year, and he was off to an incredible start again."

If not necessarily an incredible start, the Braves had certainly put together a credible one heading into Tuesday night's visit from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Of the five NL teams that had played 11 games prior to Tuesday, Atlanta had scored the second-most runs (59 to the San Diego Padres' league-leading 64) and given up the second-fewest runs (47) to the Los Angeles Dodgers' otherworldly 29.

Should such balance continue, the Braves should still have no trouble reaching the postseason. But there's also no question that the loss of Soroka could undo that early good work, especially come the playoffs, where Atlanta didn't appear to have a proven postseason ace before his injury.

For the short term, the club has already called up two bullpen arms: Chad Sobotka and Huascar Ynoa. Neither man has been a consistent, reliable reliever in the past, but Sobotka has had his moments, and with the Braves' offensive pop, being merely good could be good enough.

Still, the postseason almost always comes down to pitching. Lack of it did in the Braves against the St. Louis Cardinals last season. It always figured to be their chief weakness this time around, even before Soroka went down.

"No one is going to feel sorry for us," Freeman told the media on Monday. "It has to be next man up. Someone is going to get a great opportunity to fill a role and have a great season."

And if no one steps up to have that great season, the Braves can likely point to Soroka's injury as the chief reason for another great opportunity lost to add to Atlanta's lone World Series crown.

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Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.

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