Atlanta Braves pitcher Spencer Strider was given a bode of confidence as he received the nod to start Game 3 of the NLDS against the Phillies in Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, Spencer Strider couldn’t provide the length or consistency that the Braves desperately needed to win. With Aaron Nola‘s 11-3 record and 2.89 ERA against the Braves at home, Strider’s 5 earned runs, 3 hits, and two walks in only 2.1 innings pitched were simply not enough to give Atlanta a chance to establish an early lead on Nola.
They went on to lose 9-1 in blowout fashion.
It wasn’t rough sailing for Strider from the start, though. He opened the game with his fastball sitting 98-99 mph and with his slider generating swings and misses. He conceded no hits and struck out four batters through his first two innings pitched before allowing Brandon Marsh to reach on a leadoff walk.
By that point, the early-game gas from Strider had started to fade, and the reason for his IL stint became apparent. He spiked a pickoff throw to first baseman Matt Olson, resulting in Brandon Marsh ending up at 3rd base with only one out. Bryson Stott’s double on a hanging slider would then score Marsh, starting Strider’s spiral.
Atlanta Braves’ Spencer Strider may have his oblique strain to blame.
Almost certainly due to his oblique strain, which is notorious for its tendency to linger, Strider’s fastball velocity was dropping off, plateauing at 96 mph for multiple batters before ending at a worrying 93.8 mph on the home run pitch to Rhys Hoskins.
After conceding a single to J.T. Realmuto on the very next pitch, Strider’s afternoon on the mound would come to an early close.
Some will choose to blame manager Brian Snitker for not pulling Strider when the signs of the velocity drop were apparent. Others may criticize the decision to intentionally walk Kyle Schwarber, who was 0-17 so far in the postseason, in front of Hoskins.
The bottom line is that if Strider wasn’t prepared to give you length, then he shouldn’t have pitched. The stats are clear on this one: According to the FOX Sports broadcast, in games where the Braves score first, their record is 74-13, the best in the majors.
Against the elite Nola, it would have been ideal to have your starter last as long as possible in order to establish that coveted initial lead for the bullpen. However, this is easy to say in hindsight, and when you have a gamer like Strider on the mound, he’s going to do everything he can if the team calls on him. As a manager, you sometimes have to put your faith in that.
At the end of the day, the offense once again fell flat, and if they had capitalized on their scoring opportunity in the first inning with two runners on, Snitker may have had Strider on an even shorter leash. From there, the Braves could turn to higher-leverage guys to keep the game under control.
If there is a positive to take, it’s that the large early deficit saw Jesse Chavez and Jake Odorizzi combine to occupy five invaluable innings, saving the bullpen for what now looms as two back-to-back must-win games.
There were a multitude of factors contributing to the loss last night, and it would be exhausting to try to pinpoint just one. However, the Atlanta Braves are better than the 9-1 scoreline shows. All they can do now is prove they belong in the NLCS by cleaning up the mistakes and bringing some life to the otherwise stagnant offense.