Spencer Strider returns to form as he stymies Phillies in series-opening victory
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Atlanta Braves' Matt Olson watches after hitting a home run against Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Andrew Vasquez during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, June 20, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Braves won 4-2. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
1. Over the last few weeks, as he tried to find his way out of the one poor stretch to this point in his professional career, Strider received support from many people around him. He had to figure out what to take and what to leave.
Something he took to heart came from his wife, Maggie.
“This is a woman who didn’t know how many strikes were in a strikeout a few years ago, so she’s come a long way,” Strider said. “When she says something about baseball, I listen.”
Maggie’s message this time: “Don’t listen to everybody that tells you something.”
That stuck with Strider, who also had a good, long talk with pitching coach Rick Kranitz a couple days before holding the Phillies to a run over six innings. Kranitz echoed Maggie’s sentiment.
“I value input – sometimes too much,” Strider said. “I like to feel like I have everything at my disposal and I can learn from everything that’s around me, and you can get to the paralysis by analysis very quickly. Trying to figure out who you trust and what’s meaningful and what I can actually take away from things people say is important. You’re gonna have bad outings, you’re gonna have bad stretches. I think it’s how you learn from them and how you bounce back that matters.”
After two poor starts, Strider looked much more like himself on Tuesday. An important moment on the way here: Maggie’s message.
“Coming from her, that means a lot,” Strider said. “She usually knows what she’s talking about.”
2. This outing just looked different. Strider seemed more aggressive. He attacked. Even if he gave up hits, he always appeared in control.
He had allowed 13 earned runs over his last nine innings.
This was more like the Spencer Strider we’re used to watching.
“Expecting good outcomes is important, especially when they get guys on and we’re in big situations,” Strider said. “I try to focus on the next more so than anything and just kind of keep my focus there, and trust (catcher) Travis (d’Arnaud).”
The righty held the Phillies to 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The only hit: Nick Castellanos’ run-scoring single in the fifth inning. Before that, Philadelphia was 0-for-7 with men in scoring position.
The Phillies had eight hits off Strider, but seven were singles. The eighth was Brandon Marsh’s leadoff double in the bottom of the third, and Strider stranded him at third base.
Strider struck out nine batters. He didn’t walk any.
“Strider’s been fine,” Matt Olson said. “I’m sure the last couple starts haven’t gone the way he wanted, but nobody in here had any doubts about Spencer Strider.”
3. Strider threw 22 pitches at 98 mph or above. He threw two pitches faster than 99 mph.
Some context on those numbers: Strider hadn’t thrown a pitch over 99 mph since May 28 – a span of three starts without one. He didn’t hit 98 mph at all in his last start.
“I think him having the confidence in the command enabled him to let loose, and that’s when we saw the higher-velocity heaters come out to play,” d’Arnaud said.
4. In a tie game in the seventh inning, Ronald Acuña Jr. drove in a run with a single. Ozzie Albies plated another on a groundout.
An inning later, Matt Olson launched a moonshot homer.
These runs, along with Austin Riley’s sixth-inning solo shot, were enough to snap Philadelphia’s six-game winning streak because Strider and the bullpen pitched well.
5. Some in the fanbase were worried about Strider. Others declared him ruined.
There were a lot of overreactions to two poor starts.
“When you got a guy like (Strider), it’s easy to go through with a fine-tooth comb to try to find issues when they’re not actually present,” Olson said. “You look at a full-season body of work, nobody’s going to remember the couple starts or whatever. Everybody in here knows him and the pitcher that he is. Nobody thought twice about that stuff.”
This much is for certain: Spencer Strider is still Spencer Strider.
“That was big for him,” d’Arnaud said. “I think that was his first little rut he’s had as a professional baseball player, so to see him come out of it against a great offense is really encouraging. Just happy for him, man.”
Braves 4, Phillies 2
Stat to know
5 and 6 - Strider is the fifth pitcher in history to open his career with six consecutive wins over the Phillies. Carl Hubbell and Charlie Root – the last to do it – won six straight against the club in the 1920s. (Root did it in 1926-27, Hubbell in 1927-28.)
“His expectations are super high, which truthfully is not really fair for someone who has only a year in the big leagues. He’s still human, so for him to be able to come out and get over that little rut today against a good lineup was good for him.” - d’Arnaud on Strider
On Wednesday, AJ Smith-Shawver will pitch opposite Aaron Nola, with first pitch coming at 6:40 p.m.