Spencer Strider regroups and dominates as Braves sweep Athletics

OAKLAND – Versus an inferior opponent, the Braves took care of business – which is not always easy to do – and swept the two-game series against the A’s with a 7-3 win on Wednesday at RingCentral Coliseum.

Atlanta (86-51) has won seven in a row but fell back into second place in the East later in the night, a half-game back, after the Mets swept a doubleheader with the Pirates.

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Here are five observations on the Braves’ victory:

1. Spencer Strider started the afternoon like this: “You kind of throw the ball and hope.”

He ended like this: “I think this is probably the (start) I’m going to be most proud of so far.”

Those two postgame quotes – the first about how he felt early in the game, the second about how he leaves it – illustrate his incredible turnaround on a hot afternoon. He went from trying to find himself to dominating.

Strider threw 36 pitches in a two-run first inning.

He then hurled 67 over five scoreless innings to end his outing.

At one point, Strider retired 15 in a row. He eventually struck out nine batters. Strider, who walked three in the first inning, did not issue a walk after that. He only gave up one hit after the first.

“I was just searching a little bit,” Strider said. “Came in and just reset. And then by the third inning, I thought, ‘Hey, my fastballs have been great the last few outings, why am I being passive?’ So I just kind of stepped on the gas and it worked.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Stephen Vogt doubled home a run in the first inning and Oakland scored again on a groundout. Strider limited the damage in that first inning.

He did not need to limit the damage the rest of the way because, well, only one Oakland batter reached base after the first inning.

“You don’t want to overthrow and let things run away from you, but I think you just fall back on: What’s your crutch pitch? My crutch pitch is my fastball, and so if I’m going to get beat, it’s my fastball,” Strider said of his mindset when he’s searching.

2. In his last start, Strider set an Atlanta Braves record with 16 strikeouts.

You will not find his most recent outing in the record books, but it might have been just as impressive.

“Those are big moments, I think, when they navigate that trouble like that,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I felt like we were behind 6-0 after the first inning. … That’s all great experiences for these guys and new experiences. Wasn’t happening for him in the first inning but, man, to his credit, he kept pitching and hung in there with himself.”

On Wednesday, Strider, as they say in baseball, did not have it. He walked the leadoff man, then needed 10 pitches to retire the second batter. He walked two more batters and gave up two runs in that first inning. This could have quickly spiraled.

Instead, Strider finished six innings. He kept the Braves in the game long enough for the offense to tie the game, take the lead, then pour on runs against a bad pitching staff.

3. Atlanta scored two runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and four in the seventh. Suddenly, this turned into a snoozer.

Dansby Swanson’s sixth-inning homer gave the Braves their first lead. In the seventh, Marcell Ozuna hit a run-scoring single before Robbie Grossman doubled home two more. Ronald Acuña capped the inning with an RBI single of his own.

“Everyone in the lineup can have three hits in a day,” Vaughn Grissom said. “It’s really tough for the other guys, at least, to get past the first couple guys that are ridiculous and then you got to face the scrappers at the end that are also ridiculous.”

4. With the Braves in a two-run hole, Grissom hit a 395-foot two-run home run off Oakland starter Ken Waldichuk in the fifth inning. The Braves had one hit before that game-tying blast to the opposite field.

He has five home runs this season. He has also brought energy.

“Coming up here, he hasn’t changed at all,” Strider said. “If anything, he’s a little too goofy at times. He’s just a fun guy to be around. He just loves the game, he makes the game fun for everybody. You need a guy like that.”

5. The Braves will play three games in Seattle this weekend against a Mariners team that currently holds the American League’s second wild-card spot.

Meanwhile, the Mets play three in Miami.

Braves 7, A's 3

Stat to know

38.1 - Entering Wednesday, Strider’s 38.1% strikeout rate led all pitchers who have logged at least 110 innings this season.

Quotable

“This is where we want to be, especially after the way the season started. Just kind of weren’t finding ourselves early. Been playing great ball and everything’s been going pretty well for us. I think we’re very confident as a group right now. This is what you play for, this opportunity late in the season.” - Strider on the team’s position in the standings

Up next

The Braves are off on Thursday. Charlie Morton will start Friday’s game in Seattle, which begins at 9:40 p.m. ET.