Spencer Strider leads Braves past Reds, within 2 ½ games of Mets

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Spencer Strider throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Saturday, July 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Spencer Strider throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Saturday, July 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI – The Braves on Saturday defeated the Reds, 4-1, to take the series at Great American Ball Park. Atlanta goes for the sweep on Sunday.

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Here are five observations on the Braves (46-33):

1. The blooper fell in the outfield, an unlucky and brutal end to Spencer Strider’s no-hit bid. He lost the no-hitter and the shutout on the same weakly hit ball.

Still, you could appreciate what Strider had done.

He dominated.

Over six innings, he surrendered only that one hit and run. He carried a no-no into the fifth before losing it with two outs, and finished having tied a career high with 11 strikeouts. He walked one batter and hit another on a humid day. He threw 93 pitches.

“I mean, I’m aware of it,” Strider said of when he hadn’t allowed a hit. “It’s hard not to know the line. But I don’t think you let it change anything. If anything, it just tells shows you that you’re stuff’s good, it’s working and there’s no reason to do too much, just stick to what’s been working in the game.”

For almost two months, the fifth spot in the rotation resembled a revolving door for these Braves.

That spot has since been capably filled.

2. In the bottom of the third inning, Strider threw the hardest pitch of his young career, a 102.4 mph fastball to the Reds’ Jonathan India, who fouled it off.

“I felt pretty good today,” Strider said. “It was warmer, didn’t have to do as much to get loose. But yeah, I did see the 102 on the gun, so that was pretty wild.”

Before this, Strider’s fastest pitch was a 101.7 mph fastball.

If you’re rounding up on decimal points, Strider on Saturday threw 21 pitches that were clocked at 100 mph or more. He has the velocity, but has also harnessed it to properly execute pitches.

Strider has gone six innings in consecutive starts after never having done it in his career.

Asked how he would try to win a battle if he had to face Strider, Michael Harris said: “I mean, just hope you can hit it, honestly. Just be on time. If you’re not on time, then you have no chance. Just be on time and don’t try to do too much with it.”

3. This one became interesting when Will Smith, protecting a three-run lead in the ninth, walked two and hit another to load the bases. However, he got the final out when Albert Almora Jr. flied out to the warning track in left.

It completed yet another strong bullpen performance. A.J. Minter threw a scoreless seventh and Jesse Chavez pitched a scoreless eighth before Smith escaped a jam.

“Them guys have been awesome,” manager Brian Snitker said. “With Kenley (Jansen) down, they’re just spreading the stuff around really good and it’s kind of the next man up. You can’t say enough about those guys, either.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Braves' Austin Riley rounds third base after hitting a solo home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Saturday, July 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves' Austin Riley rounds third base after hitting a solo home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Saturday, July 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Braves' Austin Riley rounds third base after hitting a solo home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Saturday, July 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

4. Austin Riley drove in two runs to pace the Braves offensively.

In the second inning, he blasted a solo homer off Tyler Mahle, his second homer in as many days and his 20th of the season. Then he drove in another run with a double in the seventh inning.

“I feel like I’m finally staying through the ball a little bit better than in recent times,” Riley said. “I feel like this year, it’s always been like one little thing that’s just kind of been off through my swing. It’s like I have a couple good days and then I start back from the drawing board, and that’s just part of it.”

In the top of the fourth inning, Harris, the National League Rookie of the Month for June, drew a bases-loaded walk. In the seventh, Matt Olson’s groundout scored a run before Riley plated the final one of the afternoon.

5. Adam Duvall left the game an inning after a pitch hit him in the left hand in the top of the second inning. He initially remained in the game and played one defensive inning.

The Braves then pulled Duvall before the bottom of the third inning.

After the game, Snitker said Duvall was being evaluated by the trainers. The manager said the Braves would know more on Sunday morning.

Braves 4, Reds 1

Stat to know

2 ½ - The Braves are 2 ½ games behind the first-place Mets, the closest they’ve been since April 17.

Quotable

“That’s bringing some heat. And to be able to locate his offspeed – had a slider, had a changeup – at that velocity, that’s tough on hitters. It makes for a tough day at the plate.” - Riley on Strider hitting 102.4 mph

Up next

In Sunday’s series finale, which begins at 1:40 p.m., Charlie Morton faces Reds right-hander Luis Castillo.