5 outs short of no-no, Strider still makes history

April 25th, 2023

ATLANTA -- Spencer Strider’s bid for perfection fell short. But his latest gem served as a reminder of his capability to do something incredible every time he steps on a mound.

Strider flirted with history as he recorded a season-high 13 strikeouts while helping the Braves snap a four-game losing streak with an 11-0 win over the Marlins on Monday night at Truist Park. He bid adieu to a perfect game on an error in the seventh and lost his no-hitter via a bloop single in the eighth.

“That’s a different type of fastball, it’s just different stuff,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “It felt like you were facing the closer there for eight innings.”

Strider threw 81 of his 101 pitches for strikes while limiting the Marlins to two hits over eight scoreless innings. Miami whiffed on 14 of 25 swings against Strider’s slider and on 17 of 40 swings against his four-seam fastball that still hit 96.9 mph on his 100th pitch.

“He’s special,” said catcher Sean Murphy, who hit one of five Braves homers on Monday. “He proved it again tonight.”

Strider picked a good time to produce one of the best starts of his young career. His grandmother, Esther Barkley, was in attendance, celebrating her 90th birthday. This was just the second time she has attended one of her grandson’s big league games.

Strider’s latest effort makes him the only pitcher in Braves history to record at least nine strikeouts in nine consecutive starts. The 24-year-old hurler entered Monday sharing the franchise record with John Smoltz. Another Hall of Famer, Nolan Ryan, owns the MLB record with the 11-game streak he produced in 1977.

“I’m grateful that I’m in this position and I’ve had some success,” Strider said. “I’ve helped us win some games. But I’m sure there is work to be done and progress can be made.”

That’s not necessarily good news for the opponents who have watched Strider look plenty dominant while recording double-digit strikeouts in seven of his first 25 career starts. He leads MLB with 49 strikeouts and a 42.6 percent strikeout rate this year.

Strider retired each of the first 18 Marlins he faced and then saw his perfect game end when first baseman Matt Olson mishandled Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s grounder to begin the seventh.

“I probably wouldn’t have gotten over to first [base] on that ball that was hit to Matt, so he can sleep tonight,” Strider said. “And fortunately, it ended up being a normal game since [Jean] Segura hit that ball off the dirt.”

Strider pitched around Olson’s error in the seventh and carried his no-hit bid into the eighth inning. He wasn’t necessarily feeling as nervous and excited as Braves manager Brian Snitker, who saw his pitcher total 83 pitches through the first seven innings.

“I told [Austin] Riley that’s probably as nervous as I get, other than when my daughter had to get her driver’s license,” Snitker said. “You worry about the pitch count getting up there. I was just thinking tonight, the way he was going about it, he deserved a shot at it even if [the pitch count] got elevated.”

Elevated is certainly not a way to describe the pitch that ended the no-hit bid. Jean Segura reached across the plate and somehow golfed an 0-2 slider into shallow left field. Per Statcast, the pitch was just 0.78 ft. off the ground.

“He's a really good out-of-the-zone hitter,” Strider said. “So, you don't really know where to throw it to him. I probably should have thrown it over the backstop.”

The Braves have never produced a perfect game. Their last no-hitter was thrown by Kent Mercker on April 8, 1994 at Dodger Stadium. Mercker’s gem was produced four years before Strider was born in Columbus, Ohio, which, coincidentally, is where Mercker attended high school.

Given Strider’s tremendous capabilities, there’s certainly reason to think he will eventually experience that same euphoria Mercker and his Braves teammates felt nearly 30 years ago.

“He’s totally capable every time he goes out,” Murphy said.