Strider makes Braves history with 16 K’s ... and he had no idea

September 2nd, 2022

ATLANTA -- It’s akin to making the best meal that’s ever been made in New Orleans, or running the fastest lap anyone has ever run around Indianapolis. When you pitch the most dominant game in Braves history, you stand alone.

Rookie right-hander recorded 16 strikeouts over eight innings in a 3-0 win over the Rockies on Thursday at Truist Park, the most ever by an Atlanta Brave. It was the most by any Braves pitcher in a nine-inning game since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893, according to Elias. Mixing precisely located high-90s fastballs and exploding sliders, Strider did something no Brave had done in modern times.

Not John Smoltz. Not Greg Maddux. Not Tom Glavine. Not Warren Spahn. Nobody. Smoltz held the Atlanta record with 15. Spahn fanned 18 in a 15-inning game in 1952, but never had more than 15 in a nine-inning game. Strider stands alone with the most dominant start in the history of one of baseball’s most pitching-rich franchises.

And he had no idea.

“I lost track after five,” Strider said. “I came out of the game and Kyle [Wright] was telling me something about John Smoltz or whatever, and I had no idea what he was talking about. It didn’t make any sense. And then somebody else said something and I just kind of looked cross-eyed at them and they were like, ‘You know what just happened?’ It was neat. It was very cool for them to tell me that.”

Making his 17th career Major League start, Strider allowed two hits and did not walk a batter, needing 106 pitches to paint his masterpiece. He did not throw anything but fastballs and sliders, and landed 79 of those 106 pitches for strikes.

“I’m watching some of the replays of the pitches and it’s like, ‘My God,’” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “Some of those breaking balls, the depth on them, it’s just … and he holds his velocity, too. It’s pretty impressive.”

The 16 K's were the most in the big leagues since Walker Buehler struck out 16 Rockies on June 21, 2019. Strider’s 16 Ks were the most by a Major League rookie since Colorado’s Jon Gray had 16 on Sept. 17, 2016. Only five rookies have had more in a game, led by Kerry Wood’s 20 in 1998.

That’s not the end of the history Strider made, though. He became the sixth pitcher ever with at least eight innings pitched, at least 16 strikeouts, no more than two hits, and no walks in a single start. The last pitcher to do it was Corey Kluber in 2015. The rest of the list is a who’s-who of dominant modern hurlers: Max Scherzer, Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez and Kerry Wood.

“It's about the stuff,” said Rockies manager Bud Black. “I mean, it's a powerful fastball with velocity and life, and it's a breaking pitch that has good action to it. And I thought it got better as the game went on.”

Robbie Grossman made a sliding snow-cone catch in the first inning against Jose Iglesias, but after that and a routine fly to right to finish the first, Colorado was completely stuffed for the next six innings. The Rockies hit two balls out of the infield between the second and the seventh innings.

The only trouble for Strider came in the eighth, when Michael Toglia doubled and Elias Díaz reached on an error. But the righty fanned the next two batters to get out of the jam. He joked that the uncharacteristic error by first baseman Matt Olson on a routine play might have been an attempt to get him another strikeout.

“I plan to ask that question,” he quipped. “It was very peculiar on his part. Might be an ulterior motive there.”

That was the only thing even resembling a smudge on what was otherwise a magnum opus for the first year pitcher, though. Strider was in complete control from pitch one to pitch 106, and now his name stands atop a list in one of the most distinguished pitching record books in the sport.

“It’s pretty wild,” said Strider. “The guys who’ve thrown in this organization, it’s a long, incredible list.”