Spencer Strider’s sore elbow is bummer on big night for Braves

Atlanta Braves' pitcher Spencer Strider (99) prepares to pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second inning of home opener baseball game at Truist Park, Friday, April 5, 2024, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



Atlanta Braves' pitcher Spencer Strider (99) prepares to pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second inning of home opener baseball game at Truist Park, Friday, April 5, 2024, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Braves weren’t assured of a win before their home opener against the Diamondbacks. It doesn’t work like that in baseball. But this one looked lopsided on paper. The Braves sent staff ace Spencer Strider against soft-throwing lefty Tommy Henry and they have a deeper lineup than the visitors.

Those were reasons why the Braves were heavily favored to start the series with a victory. Surely, that’s what their fans among the sellout crowd at Truist Park expected on Friday night. It took some late blundering by Diamondbacks, but the Braves finally gave the people what they wanted when Travis d’Arnaud hit a run-scoring single in the bottom of the 10th for a 6-5 victory.

But the good vibes were interrupted by the postgame news that Strider will have an MRI on his throwing elbow on Saturday. Manager Brian Snitker said Strider reported discomfort after leaving the game. That might help explain why Strider surrendered five runs over four innings. It’s just the sixth time in 54 career starts that he allowed at least that many runs in four innings or less.

It will be a huge blow to the Braves if their best pitcher goes on the injured list. At least they bailed him out with the comeback victory. Two fielding miscues by Arizona in the bottom of the ninth opened the door for two runs to score before d’Arnaud finished off the D-Backs in the 10th. It’s the third walk-off win in eight home openers for the Braves at Truist Park.

“It feels great to have any comeback win, especially in your home opener in front of a sold-out crowd,” d’Arnaud said. “It’s a lot of fun.”


The possibility that Strider is injured was the one bummer on a big night for the Braves. A stint on the injured list for any Braves starter would test the team’s pitching depth. Strider is the guy they can least afford to lose for a long period. He was fourth in voting for the NL Cy Young Award in 2023, when he led the majors in strikeouts.

It wasn’t obvious that anything was wrong with Strider during the game. His velocity was down just a bit from his season debut. The D-Backs scored three runs against him in the first inning, but that came after two fluky singles. There was nothing lucky about Arizona’s run-scoring hits in the inning though.

Ketel Marte led off the game with a 384-foot homer to right field. Eugenio Suárez smacked a double off the wall that scored Lorudes Gurriel and Joc Pederson. In the fourth inning, Jake McCarthy’s RBI double dropped in right field, where Ronald Acuna Jr. was shading the other way. Arizona scored another run when Strider walked Gurriel with two outs and the bases loaded.

Snitker pulled Strider with the Braves trailing 5-2.

“Just one of those days that happens over 162 games,” d’Arnaud said of Strider. “I’m sure he’ll be ready for the next one.”

It’s not clear when that will be. If Strider goes on the inured list, the Braves will look to Triple-A Gwinnett for a replacement. The top candidates are Bryce Elder and AJ Smith-Shawver. Elder was an All-Star in 2023 but faded late in the season. Smith-Shawver, the organization’s top pitching prospect, debuted last season and made five starts.

The Braves rallied against D-Backs relievers after Henry kept them off balance while rarely throwing harder than 92 mph. He held them to two runs over five innings while stranding eight baserunners. Acuña’s RBI double in the eighth inning reduced the deficit to 5-3. The Diamondbacks carried that lead into the bottom of the ninth.

Leadoff hitter Austin Riley reached on an error by shortstop Blaze Alexander. Riley scored on Matt Olson’s double. Jarred Kelenic came up to pinch hit with one out. He hit a weak fly ball to right field, but Alexander took a bad route to the ball and nearly collided with left fielder Gurriel. The ball fell in for a game-tying RBI.

Right-hander Pierce Johnson came on to pitch the 10th inning and held the D-Backs scoreless like the four Braves relievers before him. D’Arnaud delivered the knockout blow with a sharp single off the left-field wall. After scuffling for most of the night, the Braves had a triumphant return home.

The first week of the season was all road games with dreary weather in Chicago. The Braves returned to Truist Park for sunshine and a joyous Braves Walk down Battery Avenue before the game. Then the Braves delivered another comeback victory.

“I’m kind of getting used to it with these guys,” Snitker said.

Many Braves fans left before the comeback. That was odd given the Friday night home opener and the team’s habit of coming back for victories late in games. Those who stuck around were rewarded with a late-night victory. It would have been a perfect night for the Braves if not for Strider’s sore elbow.