Braves’ Spencer Strider pitches well in first career start, but defense lets him down

PHOENIX – Spencer Strider exceeded expectations in his first career start, but his defense let him down as the Braves lost 6-2 to the Diamondbacks on Monday night at Chase Field.

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Here are five observations about the Braves (23-26) after the loss:

1. Ahead of his start, Strider thought it was neat to see his name on the MLB app as the Braves’ probable starter.

That is only one perk of starting.

“I just like to compete,” Strider said after the game. “Out of the bullpen, it can be tough, and I think everybody would agree with me that some days, you really want to get in there and some days you really don’t, and you do. It can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I’m a very methodical person, I like having a routine, I like preparing. So starting is fun for me because I get to really look ahead and be purposeful in everything I do. If that’s the role that’s best for the team, I’m excited to do it.”

Strider was charged with five earned runs on four hits over 4-1/3 innings. Three of those runs scored in the first inning, when Pavin Smith turned on an inside fastball and put it into the right-field seats.

But Strider pitched much better than his line indicated.

Two missed defensive plays hurt him.

2. It looked as if Dylan Lee, who replaced Strider in the fifth inning, had rolled an inning-ending double play.

It went from Ozzie Albies to Dansby Swanson for one out, then to Matt Olson – but the ball hit off Olson’s glove.

“Just tried to go get the ball a little too quick,” Olson said.

He soon added: “You have a clock in your head as a first baseman for when the runner’s going to be coming down the line and when you need to go get it a little bit, stretch out a little further. I was a little sped up in my clock and tried to go get it a little too quick.”

The next batter, Ketel Marte, hit a two-run double over Michael Harris’ head in center field. David Peralta followed that with a run-scoring single.

The Braves, who had trailed by a run for a few innings, now found themselves down four.

3. In the first inning, Peralta flared a ball into left field. It had an 85% catch probability, per Baseball Savant, but Marcell Ozuna, who slid to try to grab it, missed it.

Had the play been made, Strider would have escaped the inning.

The next batter, Smith, gave Arizona a two-run lead after the Braves scored a run in the top of the first.

Asked if Ozuna should’ve made the play, Braves manager Brian Snitker said: “I don’t know. I’d have to see where he was playing. I don’t know what the (defensive alignment) card said or where he was playing.”

That play came after a two-out dribbler down the third-base line turned into a hit because neither Strider nor third baseman Austin Riley made a play on it, though it might’ve been tough to get an out.

4. There were many positives for Strider in his first career start.

One of them: His stuff looked good until the end.

His last pitch clocked 98 mph. And overall, his fastball averaged 98.

“That was good,” Strider said of his stuff lasting until the end. “I was admittedly a little skeptical.”

He had pitched only out of the bullpen, so he knew he’d have to properly manage his energy while still giving his all.

Snitker hoped to get four innings out of Strider. Instead, the righty went into the fifth. He threw a season-high 72 pitches (his previous high was 71 in his season debut).

5. In his start before facing the Braves, Arizona’s Zac Gallen allowed six runs against the Royals. But other than that, he had not surrendered more than two runs in any outing. He is back on track with that.

The Braves scored two runs off Gallen, who went 5-2/3 innings, but missed a couple of opportunities.

The Braves’ start to the game appeared as if it would bode well for the rest of the evening. They hit consecutive singles to open the contest, and Ronald Acuña scored on a wild pitch.

Then Gallen held them in check for the rest of his start, except for Riley’s solo homer to lead off the fourth.

Stat to know

22 - Strider threw 22 pitches that were at least 99 mph.


“That’s the pitch I worked on all offseason, coming out of last year, knowing that third pitch was going to be big if I wanted to start. Early on, I kind of surprised myself. Kept going to it, and it kept being there. That’s what I worked on all offseason, so I’m not shocked.” - Strider on his change-up, which drew eight swings and four whiffs

Up next

In the second game of the series, right-hander Charlie Morton will face Arizona righty Humberto Castellanos. The game begins at 9:40 p.m. ET Tuesday.