Spencer Strider, Michael Harris II lead Braves to another shutout

Sophomore slump?

Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II have not heard of it. After sensational rookie campaigns, the two have continued improving to ensure they are not one-hit wonders.

On Friday, they led the way in the Braves’ 4-0 win over the Giants at Truist Park. This was Atlanta’s third consecutive shutout.

The Braves, who held the Giants to two hits, have won four games in a row and seven of their last eight.

Five observations:

1. From center field, Harris watches Strider work – and more often than not, Strider is masterful, twirling his latest gem in a career that could include a ton of them.

“A lot of the time,” Harris said, “the ball isn’t coming to me.”

When he’s at his best, as he was Friday, Strider not only keeps the ball away from Harris, but out of play as a whole. At times, hitters cannot touch Strider.

In this win, he struck out 10 batters in seven one-hit innings. At one point, he struck out five straight Giants. He didn’t allow the hit until the fourth inning.

“Everything was really good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

2. If you look at statistical leaderboards, you’ll notice this: Harris has been one of the sport’s top hitters over the last two months.

The context makes this even more impressive: Harris, slowed by an injury in the first month, hit .163 over his first 38 games.

After Friday’s four-hit performance, he’s batting .291 with a .799 OPS.

“There’s so many guys that can be successful for a period, right? At anything,” Strider said. “And for somebody to do what he did last year at such a young age, struggle a little bit to start the season and then just be where he is now, to me that’s one of the more impressive things you can do in this game is go through a dark period like that, or a lull, and come out even better than you were before. I can’t say enough good things about him as a player and a person.”

Harris entered Friday batting .352 since June 7 – the fifth-best batting average over that span. He also had a .946 OPS in that time.

In the series-opening win, he singled in the first inning, tripled in the second and doubled in the fourth. He added a run-scoring single in the sixth.

“I mean, it was tough,” Harris said of overcoming his struggles. “But for the most part, I’m a very positive person. I don’t really like to dwell on the past or any negative situation. But I guess when it’s happening so much and (for) so long like that, and you just want to help the team win, it’s pretty tough. I just kept working and kept trying to find ways to improve. And once I found that and it started working, I just tried to keep going. It was pretty cool to come out of that.”

3. The Braves have allowed no runs over their last 27 innings. Zero.

They last permitted a run in the ninth inning of Monday’s win over the Yankees.

The Braves last pitched three straight shutouts from Oct. 2-4, 2015, versus the Cardinals.

The Braves have tossed five shutouts in their last eight games. They’re the first club to do so since the 2015 Pirates, and the first Braves group to do it since 1998.

“I mean, the pitching has been really good this year,” Strider said. “A lot of people have been critical of it recently, but if you play 162 games, I think you’re gonna see a little bit of everything. We were due for a little bit of a lull, but everybody’s right back where they’ve been all year.”

4. Strider on Friday notched his 16th career double-digit strikeout game, and 10th of this season.

The only players with more double-digit strikeout games over the first 58 outings of their careers are Dwight Gooden (23) and Yu Darvish (20). But keep this in mind: Those guys debuted as starting pitchers, whereas Strider made 13 relief appearances before entering the rotation.

You can put it like this: Strider, who on Friday made his 45th career start, has recorded at least double-digit strikeouts in 36% of them.

In MLB history, Strider is one of only eight players aged 24 or younger to have 10 double-digit strikeout games in a single season.

Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker tells right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. to change his glove during the ninth inning of the team's baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

5. There was a short delay at the beginning of the ninth inning.

An umpire noticed sticky stuff on Ronald Acuña Jr.’s glove, but it wasn’t affecting the ball, so Acuña went and got a new one.

He played the inning.

Stat to know

11,000 - Friday’s win was the 11,000th in franchise history, dating to 1876. Only two other franchises – the Giants and Cubs – have eclipsed that mark in MLB history. (The Cardinals and Dodgers have, too, but both played in the independent American Association before joining the National League.)


“He’s the player we thought he is. He had a rough little start because he got kind of a late start. He had a great spring training and then got hurt, had a late start. But he battled his way through it and now we’re seeing what he’s capable of.” - Snitker on Harris

Up next

On Saturday, Yonny Chirinos will face San Francisco right-hander Logan Webb. The game begins at 7:20 p.m.

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