The Atlanta Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds with a 5-4 win Wednesday night. Spencer Strider allowed three runs over five innings and struck out nine for the seventh consecutive regular season game. However, he admittedly wasn't at his best and struggled through the early innings before finishing strong.
“Yeah, I mean, not my best effort. I feel like I sort of put the team in a bad spot,” Strider said. You’ve got to credit them for picking me up and finding a way to win the game. I’ve got to get better. It’s early, there’s a lot of time to do that, but I’m certainly not pleased with my performance. I give credit to Kranny for coming out there and saying some things to me that I won’t repeat and I think that’s what I needed to hear. So that’s the mark of a good coach is knowing when to really light the fire. He definitely does.”
The Reds put two runs on the board against Strider in the first. He came back and struck out the side in the second, but again ran into trouble in the third. A walk and a single began the inning before a disengagement violation turned a strikeout into another walk and prompted the mound visit from pitching coach Rick Kranitz. Strider retired the next three hitters in order and escaped the jam with just one run scoring. He finished the game by retiring nine straight.
“Credit to Kranny there and Sean and the rest of the team for keeping us there and making it worth leaving me in,” Strider said. “So yeah, I mean, hopefully that is progress I can take into the next start and sort of get the bad ones out of the way.”
Strider averaged 97.1 mph with his fastball in Wednesday’s game. For the season his fastball is averaging 97.2 mph which is a tick down from last season’s average per Baseball Savant. That is something that Strider is aware of and thinks it is a result of him trying to hold back in an effort to pitch deeper into games.
“You’re right and I’m aware of that,” Strider said of the slight velocity drop. “I think Sal and I were talking about it. I think some of what I’ve been struggling with is that I’ve been trying to pace myself and worry about going deep in the game and being economical and that’s not what I do. So, what will allow me to do those things is competing with my strengths and that’s throwing with full intensity and being fully engaged and aware of every pitch. Fortunately the team has picked me up these last two starts, but consequently I haven’t given my best effort. That’s sort of an external gauge of my intensity, I think, is my velocity. To see it kind of pick up at the end of the game was comforting and just a confirmation that I need to find a bit more competitive edge in me than I’ve been displaying the last couple of starts.”
Orlando Arcia update
Orlando Arcia was hit on the wrist by a 98 mph fastball from Hunter Greene in the second inning of Wednesday’s game.
“Yeah, I don’t know, we’ll just wait until tomorrow and treat him up,” Brian Snitker said. “He’s going to be pretty sore, I’m sure.”
Arcia initially stayed in the game, but exited and had X-rays on the wrist which came back negative. Snitker said that he couldn’t completely rule out an IL stint until they see how he feels Thursday morning, but everything seems to suggest that the Braves dodged a bullet with the injury.
“That’s just one of the things that probably hadn’t really set in yet, because he had his wrist pretty well heavily taped anyway,” Snitker said of Arcia staying in the game. “Its probably good that he had that. I think once he came back, it was starting to get him a little bit and bother him a lot and they did the x-rays down in the tunnel.”
Snitker added that Thursday’s off day will be beneficial and the team will continue to treat Arcia and that they will just see where he is at on Friday.
“It gives him a whole day to treat him up and probably come in in the morning before we leave and I’m sure after we get there,” Snitker said. “Then we got all morning the next day and then we’ll just see where he’s at. I mean, if he needs a couple days then so be it.”
Eddie Rosario starting to turn the corner
Eddie Rosario finished with two hits Wednesday night, including a go-ahead solo home run in the eighth inning. Rosario had four hits in the series and is again showing signs of coming around.
“Yeah, I mean if not that, I don’t know what,” Snitker said when asked if the eighth inning homer might get Rosario going. “He’s had some good at-bats, good contact, not much to show for it. So that was sure a big weight off his shoulders to finally hit that first one.”
The underlying metrics for Rosario are encouraging. He has a 10.7% barrel rate and his hard hit rate is up to 39.3%. He has a .281 wOBA against a .405 xwOBA which shows that he has been unlucky through the early going.
“Yeah, we look at the at-bats, yeah, and see him making good contact,” Snitker said when asked about Rosario’s underlying numbers. “That’s why he’s kind of like it was glaring last year, because he was striking out and he’s a bat to ball guy. That’s not him. He makes contact and like I say, he’s hit the ball hard with nothing to show for it.”
Marcell Ozuna’s struggles
Marcell Ozuna started again at DH Wednesday night, but was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. For the season, he is 3-for-36 at the plate and has struck out 13 times. However, with Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Harris currently out of the lineup, it doesn’t sound like he is at risk of losing playing time.
“I thought yesterday, he squared three balls up yesterday,” Snitker said of Ozuna, who was 1-for-4 in Tuesday’s game. “He’s just going to have to keep fighting through it all and try to get where he was. He had a really good spring, but that doesn’t count. This is what counts.”
“I was really encouraged last night [Tuesday] by the way the ball was coming off his bat, and his at-bats, but he’s just going to have to keep fighting through it. He’s going to get some opportunities because, it’s there right now, especially with Travis being down. So, we’ll see.”
Ozuna’s strikeout rate is up to 31.7% which is a career-high. When he does make contact, he still hits it hard, but it's on the ground as his 60.9% ground ball rate attests. His launch angle is 0.8 for the season. Dating back to the start of the 2021 season, Ozuna is hitting .215/.274/.389 with and 81 wRC+ in 756 plate appearances. Due to injuries, the Braves may not have much choice other than to “keep running him out there” but the writing is on the wall.