Striding to 14: Spencer Strider's gas fuels Braves' streak

June 16th, 2022

WASHINGTON -- Some in baseball say momentum is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. Some say momentum isn’t a thing at all. But when you haven’t lost all month and your next day’s starter throws 100 mph, you tend to take the field feeling like it's on your side.

That was the position the Braves found themselves in Wednesday, when they rode another electric start from rookie Spencer Strider and set an Atlanta-era record for home runs in a three-game series en route to their 14th straight win. Atlanta’s 8-2 victory over the Nationals extended the longest win streak in the Majors this season and matched the second-longest streak in franchise history since 1900, putting the Braves one win shy of the modern era club mark of 15 straight, set in 2000.

It was also the Braves' 11th consecutive win against the Nationals in Washington, the most by any team at Nationals Park. They haven’t lost since May 31 against the D-backs and they have sliced six games off their deficit in the National League East in that time, whittling it down to four games Wednesday after Milwaukee routed the Mets. The Nats became the fourth straight team to be swept by the Braves, joining the Rockies (four games), A’s (two games) and Pirates (four games) during this dominant run by Atlanta.

“Everything seems to be clicking right now,” Strider said. “Top to bottom.”

After connecting for 10 homers in two slugfest victories to begin this series, Austin Riley (twice) and Orlando Arcia’s homers gave them a record-setting 13, the Braves' most in a three-game set since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966.

The Braves also tied a club record for a three-game series with 31 hits in the set, tying a mark set this past April 11-13, also against Washington. They’ve hit an MLB-best 33 homers and outscored their opponents by 60 runs (101-41) during this streak, and they will get a chance to extend it Friday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

“That’s kind of amazing, really,” manager Brian Snitker said. “Our pitching, the bullpen. … We made plays, we got big hits. We did the whole thing.”

Otherwise, their runaway finale win was all about Strider. The fire-balling rookie right-hander spent 5 2/3 innings overpowering the Nats, racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts and inducing whiffs on 23 of his first 89 pitches (24 of 106 overall). The 23-year-old averaged 98.8 mph with his fastball and eclipsed 99 mph 31 times, touching 100.9 mph and holding Washington hitless until Luis García’s solo homer in the fifth. That wound up being the only hit Strider allowed, while yielding just two runs.

“Man, he was good,” Nats manager Dave Martinez said. “He was 100, 101. But more so, his breaking ball was good, and he threw it for strikes. When a guy is like that, he’s locating his fastball, he’s tough.”

Strider became only the third pitcher in Braves history to strike out 11 in fewer than six innings, and the first since Julio Teheran on Aug. 1, 2013. The other was Tony Cloninger on June 28, 1965.

“I thought I had, from the very beginning, everything I needed to get deep into the game,” Strider said. “You have very few days where you feel on top of it. Today was one of those days where I, early on, knew I had my better stuff.”

Strider is now 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings as a starter, with the Braves winning three of his four starts since he joined the back end of their rotation. Atlanta went 2-9 in games started by others who previously filled the fifth starter’s spot.

Among MLB pitchers with at least 150 batters faced this season, only Michael Kopech (.137) and Tony Gonsolin (.147) have a lower opponents’ average than Strider (.161).

Asked what it’s like to play defense behind Strider, Arcia called it “a little boring."

“They don’t really hit him hard,” quipped Arcia, who finished 4-for-4 and hasn’t stopped hitting since replacing the injured Ozzie Albies at second base.

“I get excited when he pitches,” Snitker said. “The stuff, mentality, makeup. The kid competes and he expects to do well. He has a lot of upside and really good intangibles. It’s fun.”

The Braves are having a lot of fun right now, and it may not end anytime soon. Their streak is the fifth in MLB of at least 14 games since 2009, joining their 14-gamer from '13, Cleveland’s 14-gamer in '16, its AL-record 22-game streak in '17 and St. Louis’ 17-game run last September.