After keeping the baseball world on the edge of their seat, wondering whom they might deploy as their starter for Game 3 of the NLDS, the Braves have ended the speculation: it’ll be the sensational Spencer Strider, making his postseason debut. However, as good as Strider has been, this game is nowhere near a gimme for the Braves, because their bats will have to stare down MLB pitching fWAR leader Aaron Nola in this one, in what should prove to be a very tough matchup.
But first, about Strider. The conflagrating right-hander was amazing in his first non-cup of coffee season, putting together 4.9 fWAR in 131 2⁄3 innings of work. He pitched out of the bullpen for about the first seven weeks of the season, and was awesome. He then ascended to the rotation, and was pretty much the same level of awesome. His 4.9 fWAR mark is good for eighth in MLB among all hurlers, only one other pitcher finished with 4.4 fWAR or more and fewer than 150 innings (Max Scherzer).
If there are any concerns about Strider, they’re not about his talent level. Rather, he hasn’t appeared in a game since September 18 (also against the Phillies). After that game, his start was skipped, first ostensibly to line him up to face the Mets in that season-defining showdown in Atlanta, but later as a bonafide Injured List stint after his oblique ailment became, apparently, serious enough to keep him out of action for the final two weeks of the season. While there are no indications that Strider is anything but fully healthy, it remains to be seen just how deep the Braves will let him go in this game, given the long layoff between September 18 and today. Further, the data on pitchers coming off long layoffs in their return starts are muddled. It’s probably safest to figure Strider will be Strider, but in a single baseball game, anything can happen — and all the injury-and-layoff circumstances swirling around Strider’s start muddy the waters further.
Not muddied, or muddled at all? Aaron Nola, whom the Braves will have to unfortunately face in this game. Nola, is, well, also awesome. Amazing. He led all of MLB in pitching fWAR this year with 6.3, an 80/64/70 line that would’ve looked better to some if he didn’t have the Philadelphia defense behind him (his xERA is nearly identical to his xFIP). Nola continued his fantastic work by shutting down the Cardinals for 6 2⁄3 innings, throwing together a 6/1 K/BB ratio and racking up a bunch of grounders as the Phillies skedaddled past St. Louis last weekend.
At this point, both teams should be well-familiar with the opposing starter. The Braves have faced Nola five times, with the Phillies winning three of the games and the Braves taking two.
- On May 26, he dominated the Braves for 8 1⁄3 innings, with a 10/0 K/BB ratio, in a 4-1 win.
- On June 30, he pitched well but allowed two homers in a blowout 14-4 win over the Braves.
- July 26 was similar to June 30, except that it wasn’t a blowout win, and the two dingers he yielded were costly as the Braves won 6-3.
- September 17 was an absurd game in which Jake Odorizzi “outdueled” Nola as the Braves won a close, 4-3 contest.
- But then that same matchup went a much more expected way six days later, as Nola was pretty good and the Phillies clobbered Odorizzi for a 9-1 win.
That 6-3 win? It came in a Strider-Nola matchup; Strider allowed just a solo homer with a 6/1 K/BB ratio in six innings of work. Strider’s sum total of outings against the Phillies this year:
- May 25, 2 2⁄3 innings of hitless relief, 5/2 K/BB ratio, Braves pulled ahead to win 8-4 late. This was Strider’s last relief appearance of the year.
- July 26, the aforementioned game against Nola that ended in a Braves win.
- August 2, where Strider dominated the Phillies with a 13/1 K/BB ratio over 6 2⁄3 innings in what eventually became a laugher of a 13-1 Braves win.
- September 18, Strider’s most recent appearance, with a 10/3 K/BB ratio and just a solo homer allowed in a 5-2 Braves win.
Basically, the Phillies’ results have not been very good for them when Strider takes the hill. Let’s hope that continues today, and that questions about Strider’s longevity or effectiveness have pleasing answers. The winner today will have a 2-1 edge in the NLDS, and force the other team into an elimination game tomorrow.
NLDS Game 3
Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Series tied 1-1)
Date/Time: Friday, October 14, 2022, 4:37 pm EDT
Location: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
TV: Fox Sports 1 (FS1)
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan, La Mejor 1600/1460/1130 AM, ESPN Radio
XM Radio: Ch. 175