Strider strikes out 9 Cards ... in 1st 3 innings

Rookie sets Braves mark with dominant stretch en route to career-high 12 K's

July 8th, 2022

ATLANTA – Instead of worrying about an innings limit or late-season fatigue, the Braves will continue sending Spencer Strider to the mound every five days, knowing he is more than capable of generating tremendous value and excitement with every start.

Strider added to his legend as he registered a career-high 12 strikeouts, including nine through the first three innings of a 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Cardinals on Thursday night at Truist Park. His latest impressive effort enhanced what has been one of baseball’s best stories this year.

“He just backed up a really good [start] with another really good one,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s pretty impressive what he’s doing.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Strider became the first Braves pitcher since at least 1961 to record nine strikeouts through the first three innings of a game. The most recent Major Leaguer to have done this was the Marlins’ Pablo Lopez, who struck out each of the first nine batters he faced on July 11, 2021 -- vs. the Braves.

“It’s cool,” Strider said. “A lot of good pitchers have pitched for Atlanta, so that’s neat. I wish we would have pulled out the win as well.”

During a 12-strikeout performance against the Mets on June 25, 2021, Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola became the only starter since 1961 to record his first 10 outs via a strikeout. Strider’s bid to match this evaporated when Nolan Arenado popped out against a 99.1 mph fastball in a 2-1 count to begin the fourth.

“The first guy, [Strider] was throwing 130 miles per hour,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “You get beat three nights in a row here and then you’ve got to face a guy throwing the way he did. That was real stuff. … Was I off [on the 130 mph]? It’s real coming from a 5-foot-9 guy with 18 [inches of] vertical [break] at 100 miles per hour. That’s a real fastball.”

How dominant was Strider through the three-inning stretch? Well, the Cardinals whiffed with 11 of 18 swings against his fastball and with five of seven swings against his slider. The first-inning double he allowed to Arenado was a popup that fell in between Ronald Acuña Jr. and second baseman Orlando Arcia along the right-field line.

“It just means I’m good enough to be here and I shouldn’t try too hard,” Strider said. “I just need to trust myself, and that is kind of what is always running through my head.”

Strider navigated his way through the fourth and fifth innings without a strikeout and then notched two more during his final frame. The rookie hurler surrendered just two hits as he completed a career-high-tying six innings in a third straight start. He has recorded a double-digit strikeout total in three of his first eight career starts.

Strider has posted a 2.83 ERA in eight starts and a 2.60 ERA over the 19 appearances he has made this year. That’s pretty impressive, especially when accounting for this being his second full professional season. The Braves drafted him out of Clemson in the fourth round of the 2020 MLB Draft and then watched him rise from Single-A to the Majors (two relief appearances during the regular season’s final weekend) last year.

“He’s not where he’s going to be yet,” Snitker said, “but it’s been very impressive what he has done up to this point.”

Strider never topped 77 2/3 innings during any of his college years, and he totaled 94 innings in the Minors last year before simulating some more in case he was needed at any point throughout October. He has accumulated 63 2/3 innings this year, but the Braves will simply monitor him instead of restricting him with an innings limit.

“The last few years, we haven’t really shut anybody down,” Snitker said. “We let them go. Looking at it, I don’t know if there is any proof that it helps guys to limit them. We’ll just see where he’s at as he goes along.”

Strider certainly hasn’t shown any signs of fatigue while recording 18 outs in each of his past three outings. Before beginning this stretch against the Dodgers on June 26, he had completed six innings just three times, including twice last year, since leaving high school.

Still, Strider ended this 100-pitch effort with a 99.2 mph pitch that Arenado popped out against. His fastball touched 100.5 mph and averaged 98.1 mph.

“What’s frustrating is having the velo and the energy and not being able to get deep into games,” Strider said. “I’d like to be a little more economical, but it is nice to see stuff maintaining.”