Strider backs up talk, wins rematch vs. Mets

Acuña notches fourth career game with three extra-base hits

August 16th, 2022

ATLANTA -- Spencer Strider talked the talk and then walked the walk, while helping the Braves maintain their belief that the National League East could look much different by the time the regular season concludes.  

Ronald Acuña Jr. tallied three RBI doubles and William Contreras teamed with Eddie Rosario to hit back-to-back homers as the Braves rolled to a 13-1 win over the Mets on Monday night at Truist Park. But the most impressive performance was fashioned by Strider, who allowed one run over five innings, three of which were completed after a 55-minute rain delay.  

“[Strider] is a superstar, and I think it’s awesome that he has that level of confidence,” Acuña said through a translator. “I think it helps him be the pitcher that he is.”

Strider allowed one run on three hits and a walk over five innings eight days after lasting just 2 2/3 innings against the Mets in an Aug. 7 loss at Citi Field. His emotions got the best of him when he exited the previous outing and said, “[The Mets] seem to be having a lot of luck right now offensively. So, that’s great. It’s August, we’ll see what things are like in October.”

“That was not what I was trying to convey after that game,” Strider said. “I definitely needed my chamomile tea. They didn’t have that in the clubhouse in New York. Yeah, I was frustrated. They’re just a pesky team.”

So, maybe Strider wishes he would have chosen his words more wisely on Aug. 7. But he certainly didn’t back down from the challenge of proving he and the Braves could both be better during this go-around against the Mets, who took four of five when these teams met earlier this month in New York.

By winning the opener of this four-game series, the Braves extended their winning streak to seven games and moved within 4 1/2 games of the first-place Mets. This latest victory will mean little if the defending World Series champs don’t win this series. But at least for now, Atlanta has regained some of the swagger that may have been lost at Citi Field earlier this month.

“You just never know when you’re going to have that game that gets you back going,” manager Brian Snitker said.

Acuña’s re-emergence has been one of the key reasons the Braves are currently surging. The outfielder had produced a .580 OPS over a 38-game stretch entering the Aug. 4 series opener in New York. He has hit .404 with a 1.067 OPS in the 12 games that have followed.

Aiding Strider’s effort, Acuña doubled during Atlanta’s three-run second inning, added another RBI double in the two-run fourth and one more in the eight-run sixth. This marked the fourth time in his career he has notched three extra-base hits in one game. He had tallied as many as two extra-base hits in a game just one previous time this season.

It was a good night all around for the Braves, who saw each starting position player record at least one hit. Second baseman Vaughn Grissom tallied two hits in his first career home start and 21-year-old phenom Michael Harris II used his glove and bat to maintain his tight battle with Strider for NL Rookie of the Year.

“You just never know how a young guy is going to handle all of this,” Snitker said. “It’s very fortunate that we have a group of guys like this in one swoop.”

After rain halted play with two outs in the bottom of the second, Strider kept his arm warm by throwing a simulated inning in the clubhouse batting cages. The fact that he was pitching with three additional days of rest gave the Braves confidence he could return after the 55-minute delay. He rewarded the decision by allowing just one more hit over his final three innings.

“[The Mets] grind out at-bats, they don’t strike out much and they don’t swing and miss,” Strider said. “That’s kind of how I pitch. They’re sort of the opposite of me. I didn’t make adjustments last week. So, I chalked it up to them. When you put the ball in play that much, things will go your way a lot of the time.”

Strider made adjustments during this latest outing and reaped the benefits. He showed confidence with his slider and changeup and proved he can be successful without trying to strike everybody out. Strider tallied four strikeouts and limited the Mets to an 86.9 mph average exit velocity with the 14 balls put in play against him.

Consequently, with or without his chamomile tea, he was feeling much better after this outing.

“This team doesn’t panic,” Strider said. “We don’t freak out and [we] remain pretty calm and confident.”