Rockies on wrong end of historic performance

Colorado hitters strike out 16 times as Strider sets Braves franchise record

September 2nd, 2022

ATLANTA – At the end of a day of pain and numbness because of a morning root canal, Rockies second baseman knew more hurt was coming. Asked if air pressure from the plane ride would bother him as the Novocain wore off, he winced and nodded.

But in a sense, he was the lucky one.

He didn’t have to face Spencer Strider.

The Braves right-hander set a franchise record with 16 strikeouts in eight innings as the Braves beat the Rockies, 3-0, at Truist Park, the most for a Braves pitcher in a nine-inning game since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893, according to Elias. It marked the fourth time in Rockies history that one pitcher had at least 16 K’s against them. The loss left the Rockies sitting at 2-5 on this trip against the Mets and Braves, both of whom lined up a who’s who of Cy Young Award candidates and pitchers who should be.

The Rockies were braced for a difficult task. A rare starting pitcher who lives by a fastball and a slider, Strider has been baffling hitters all year. He has 174 strikeouts in 114 2/3 innings.

“It’s about the stuff,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “It’s a powerful fastball with velocity and life, and it’s a breaking pitch that has good action to it. And I thought it got better as the game went on. There were some sliders early in the game that I thought were hittable, but we were looking for his fastball because that’s what his strength is.”

Back on June 4 in Denver, the Rockies at least pushed Strider out of a 6-2 Braves win by driving his pitch count to 87 in four innings.

Thursday was not June 4 in Denver.

“It looked like he settled in and had a pretty good feel for the slider,” said Charlie Blackmon, one of seven Rockies to strike out at least twice. “It’s a little bit hard to cover both.”

If you’re into low-scoring games, this road trip has been one for you.

Only once in the seven games, a 7-6 walk-off loss to the Mets last Friday, has the winning team scored more than three runs. Opposing pitchers have included Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt, David Peterson and Max Scherzer for the Mets, and Max Fried and Kyle Wright for the Braves before Strider. Any cursory scan of National League pitching leaders will feature their names in several categories.

And the Rockies have pitched reasonably well. Their two wins came from Germán Márquez, who outdueled Scherzer for seven innings for a 1-0 decision, and José Ureña, who hung tough for five innings of a 3-2 win over the Braves and Fried.

At least the Rockies can regroup in a three-game set starting Friday at Cincinnati. No guarantees there, especially for a team that’s 20-44 on the road after the loss to Atlanta, but Reds starters Luis Cessa, Nick Lodolo and Chase Anderson don’t light up a marquee like the pitchers the Rockies have been facing. And Rodgers, one of the Rockies’ better hitters (but 3-for-25 on a toothache-y road trip), is expected back in the lineup.

On Thursday, battled Strider until the fifth, when Michael Harris II's leadoff homer began a sequence that drove up his pitch count. But Justin Lawrence (for 1 1/3 innings) and Dinelson Lamet and Chad Smith (for an inning apiece) pitched hitless ball out of the bullpen.

But the only time the Rockies managed more than one baserunner was the eighth, when Michael Toglia kept his first Major League series memorable with a one-out double off Strider and Elias Díaz reached on an error, only to have Strider strike out Elehuris Montero and Sean Bouchard.

“We’d like more wins, but I feel like we’ve been in pretty much every game, so that’s a plus,” Randal Grichuk said. “That’s a plus. These pitchers have been really good -- really good postseason arms. We felt good, but came up a little short.”