ARLINGTON -- With core members of the starting rotation Max Fried and Kyle Wright sidelined by injuries, the Braves turned to top prospect Jared Shuster to hold down the fort against the Rangers on Tuesday night.
Shuster, the 25th overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett ahead of Atlanta's matchup against Texas at Globe Life Field with the hope that he would be much better in his second stint in the Majors. Earlier this season, Shuster, 24, struggled in two starts, allowing eight runs in 8 2/3 innings while failing to go beyond the fifth.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Braves manager Brian Snitker elaborated on what improvements he would like to see from Shuster in his return to The Show.
“[I’d like to see] a few innings [from Shuster], pretty much,” said Snitker. “I’d really just like to see him stretch the game and get guys out.”
Although he wasn’t perfect, Shuster pitched a much more competitive outing against the Rangers, allowing just three hits, two walks and three runs and making it through five innings for the first time in his big league career. Shuster and the Braves were unable to secure the win, dropping the game, 7-4, to Texas, but the Braves were encouraged by the grit they saw from Shuster.
“I think [Shuster] did great,” said Snitker. “He gave us five innings. He kind of came undone in the [fourth inning], but overall, he was a lot better. If you told me before the game that he would give us five innings, I would have said, ‘That’s great.’”
Shuster began the game on cruise control and carried a no-hitter through three innings. In the fourth, though, the talented lefty ran into trouble when he faced the heart of the Rangers’ lineup for the second time.
Robbie Grossman broke up the no-hitter with a leadoff single, and first baseman Nathaniel Lowe followed that with an RBI double. Then Adolis García belted a 92 mph pitch from Shuster a Statcast-projected 365 feet into the right-field seats for a two-run blast. It was the first home run Shuster has surrendered in his Major League career.
“I just left a couple over the plate,” Shuster said of his lackluster fourth inning. “[The Rangers] have some good hitters over there, so they are gonna do a good job on those pitches. But other than those three [runs], I’m happy with the way I adjusted out there.”
The next inning, his final frame of the outing, Shuster responded favorably, retiring the Rangers in order and recording his third strikeout.
“[I think I did] much better,” said Shuster. “I was able to make adjustments, and I felt more comfortable out there, so I’m happy with it.”
Shuster noted that his two previous outings in the Majors served as building blocks for his improvement against the Rangers.
“I just felt like my stuff was better,” Shuster said. “Having the past two starts as experiences helped me out there, and helped me make adjustments when I needed to and not just go out there and let things get away.”
Perhaps what was most impressive about Shuster’s outing was his ability to pound the strike zone. Of the 66 pitches he threw, 42 were strikes -- good for a 64 percent strike rate.
After the game, Shuster spoke about the adjustments he made in the Minors and staying aggressive as a pitcher.
“[I worked on] a few mechanical things [in the Minors],” Shuster said. “Just not rushing down the mountain, and also not rushing myself to throw the next pitch. [I worked on] slowing things down a little bit, and I think I did a good job [of that].”
Shuster noted that he isn’t sure if he will remain with the Braves or be sent back to Triple-A. He plans to “take it day by day” as he waits for clarity.
The Braves will play the series finale against the Rangers on Wednesday night before returning to Atlanta for a 10-game homestand against the Mariners, Dodgers and Phillies.