1. On Aug. 7, the Pirates hung a crooked number on Spencer in the third inning as they chased him from the game.
He did not allow another run until the seventh inning on Friday, Aug. 25 – a career-best span of 20 scoreless innings between three starts.
There were times this season when Strider felt his line didn’t match how well he threw. Lately, the results have matched his performance.
“I think there’s more focus on each pitch individually,” Strider said on his recent stretch compared to others this season. “I’m always trying to optimize things. So, hopefully the preparation and the intensity, the focus, all of that, lines up with the results. That’s the idea. It’s not always gonna work that way. There’s a lot of things I can’t control, but I think as the season goes on, you learn from your mistakes and you move closer to perfection on those things you can’t control, and hopefully that gives you a chance to win, a chance to be successful.”
His scoreless streak ended on a grounder to third baseman Austin Riley that allowed Joc Pederson, who led off the inning with a triple, to score. Had the ball been hit toward third base, with Riley going to his right, Strider might’ve extended that scoreless streak.
Still, it’s a remarkable accomplishment for the young flamethrower, who became the major leagues’ first 15-game winner.
Strider gave up only three hits, and two came back to back in the third inning. He struck out nine batters and walked only one. Strider and Dwight Gooden are the only pitchers in MLB history to tally at least 400 strikeouts through their first 46 career starts.
Not only is Strider’s stuff elite, but he possesses terrific makeup for a young pitcher.
“I mean, obviously the focus in between every pitch,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said of what separates Strider from other young pitchers. “I think when he makes a mistake, he’s really good at letting it go and focusing on the next pitch. Obviously his fastball is a unicorn. It’s unique. And on top of that, the command that he has with it is very rare, very unique. And now that his slider is coming along and now he has a changeup, too. He’s a tough at-bat. I’m glad I don’t have to face him.
“He works tremendously hard. He’s very regimented with his routines and with his studying. He’s one of the rare young kids that I’ve come across.”
2. During Harris’ first at-bat of the game, a heckler in front of the press box made his presence known.
Three seconds later, Harris put Logan Webb’s next pitch into the water in McCovey Cove, which is beyond the right-field wall and concourse. It measured at 389 feet, but that might’ve been a conservative estimate.
This ball was smoked. There was no doubt attached to it.
It gave the Braves a 1-0 lead in the first inning, an advantage they never relinquished.
In the top of the sixth, Harris hit a run-scoring single. He later scored on a pop-up behind third base, as the third baseman’s momentum carried him away from home, which allowed Harris to score easily and strike a pose when he slid into home.
Harris also stole two bases.
He’s done well filling Ozzie Albies’ shoes in the two-hole.
“I’ve started to adjust,” Harris said. “Nine-hole has my heart.”
Who wants to bat ninth?
“This team is fun and this lineup is pretty dangerous,” Harris said. “I feel like I can hide down in the nine spot and do my little damage and not be really seen down there because everybody ahead of me is doing phenomenal and has crazy numbers as well. I just feel like I can hide down there and get some more hittable pitches.”
3. That joke about Strider and Harris’ great performances coming on the same days?
It actually happens.
It did again.
“I think he just said something to me about that in the dugout,” Harris said. “He was like, ‘Why do you gotta show me up all the time when I’m pitching?’ I guess we never really think about it, but it just happens on the same day, and I guess we’re trying to keep that going.”
“He needs to relax a little, or at least start giving me some of his pay every five days, because something about me pitching is helping him play,” Strider joked. “Not that he doesn’t play well every day. We were sitting there before the game eating and I almost said to him, ‘Ah well, we’re probably gonna have good games today, huh?’ Of course, he had a good game, so I’m glad I could help him.”
Since July 26, Strider has had five starts in which he’s allowed two or fewer earned runs. Harris excelled in all of those games.
July 26: Strider allowed two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings, and Harris went 1-for-3 with a double and a triple.
Aug. 1: Strider permitted only one run over 6 1/3 innings versus the Angels, and Harris went 2-for-3 with two home runs.
Aug. 12: Strider threw seven scoreless innings in the second game of a doubleheader sweep of the Mets. Harris went 0-for-4 in that game, but 2-for-3 with two doubles and a walk in the first contest.
Aug. 18: Strider tossed seven one-hit innings against the Giants, while Harris finished 4-for-5 with a double, a triple and an RBI.
Friday: Strider hurled seven innings of one-run ball, and Harris went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs scored.
4. No one who watched Webb would have any substantial complaints about the way he pitched. He simply got Braves’d.
What that means: He appeared to pitch relatively well, but eventually was charged with five runs over 5 1/3 innings.
“They just kept battling, not giving in and grinding the at-bats,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s tough, man. I said that the other day when he pitched against us. He’s a horse. The stuff is really good and he’s got a great assortment.”
Yes, that’s what this offense can do – even against the best pitchers.
The Braves were not launching bombs everywhere. They just worked Webb. And worked him. And worked him some more.
When Travis d’Arnaud walked up to the plate to lead off the top of the fifth inning, Webb was at 59 pitches. When d’Arnaud finally grounded out, Webb was at 73 pitches – a 14-pitch at-bat.
Five of the last 10 Braves who faced Webb saw at least five pitches in their at-bats.
5. If Marcell Ozuna finishes the week strong, the Braves might have consecutive winners for National League Player of the Week.
Eddie Rosario earned the honor for last week’s performance.
On Friday, Ozuna hit a run-scoring single in the fourth inning. Through four games this week, Ozuna is 9-for-13 with four home runs, eight RBIs, two doubles, six runs scored and three walks.
Stat to know
5 - Strider is the fifth pitcher since 1893 to tally at least 200 strikeouts in both of his first two full major-league seasons. He joined Cleveland’s Herb Score (1955-56), the Mets’ Dwight Gooden (1984-85), the Dodgers’ Hideo Nomo (1995-96) and Texas’ Yu Darvish (2012-13) on that list.
“Just try to put it in play. He’s pretty nasty. He’s a big difference from when I first saw him. His pitches are more refined and he’s figured it out. He knows himself and has figured himself out, his preparation before a game and everything that goes into it. He’d be tough to face, but I’m glad he’s on my team right now.” - Harris, who first saw Strider at the alternate site in 2020, on what his approach would be if he faced the righty
Max Fried will start Saturday’s game for the Braves. First pitch is at 4:05 p.m. ET.