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Braves and Phillies set to square off as Spencer Strider looks to get back on track

Spencer Strider has had two straight bad starts. Hopefully the streak ends at just two.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets - Game One Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Two of the hottest teams in the National League are squaring off tonight and as fate would have it, they're both in the same division. The Atlanta Braves are rolling into town with the National League's best record while the Philadelphia Phillies are just as hot and trying to make a statement of intent while still plenty of games behind in the standings.

We've got a good ol’ fashioned case of an unstoppable force coming up against a seemingly unmovable object. Atlanta's offense has been simply incredible over the past week or so and they're coming up against a pitcher in Ranger Suárez who has done a really good job of limiting runs over his past few starts. The Braves will be entering this game with the best offense in the NL according to team wRC+ (118 — seven points ahead of the Dodgers who are in second place), Isolated Power (.210, which is also tops in all of baseball) and wOBA (.352, again, best in baseball as well). The Braves are not a team that any pitcher is exactly chomping at the bit to take on at the moment.

With that being said, Ranger Suárez figures to be up for the challenge. Suárez is entering this game on a run where he hasn't given up more than two runs in a start since May 24. His past four starts have seen him give up two against the Mets, one run each against the Nationals and the Dodgers and then seven shutout innings in his most recent start against the Diamondbacks. The fact that he's getting it done against both the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers seems to indicate that this is not a some sort of flash-in-the-pan run of form for Suárez — even if Statcast appears to be a little spooked by what Suárez has to offer.

Still, a pitcher with that type of record has to be taken seriously and I'd imagine that Atlanta's going to be in for their toughest challenge in a while in terms of pitching matchups. The Braves have had mixed results against Suárez in the recent past, though — they did have games early last season where they racked up five, four, and three runs in each of the first three games they had against the lefty hurler but then Suárez proceeded to pitch two gems in September against the Braves where he pitched six innings in both games while only giving up one solitary run between those two games. So while it wouldn't be shocking to see Atlanta go out there and keep on putting numbers on the board, it also wouldn't be particularly bewildering if Suárez was able to keep the Phillies in the game with his efforts tonight.

One guy who is definitely in need of a bounce-back performance on the mound is Spencer Strider. His past two starts have represented the nadir in what's been a somewhat underwhelming run of starts ever since he set the world on fire to start the season in April. If Statcast is scared of what Ranger Suárez is bringing to the table, then it's nearly completely enamored with what Strider has going on, even if his past two performances have been ones to throw directly into the trash can.

The good news for Strider is that one of his positive starts this season did come against Philadelphia. Strider pitched six innings against the Phillies on May 28 and only gave up two runs while striking out nine batters and only surrendering two hits and one walk. That's about as good as it gets for a six-inning performance and if Strider can find that vein of form for this evening's contest then it will be such a beautiful sight for sore eyes. This'll also be Strider's first start at Citizens Bank Park since "that" game last October, so needless to say he'll be looking to set some things straight when it comes to this particular ballpark.

Atlanta will be rolling into Philadelphia playing some really good baseball, as their excellent performances in June have helped propel them to the top record in the NL and a run differential that is comical compared to the rest of the teams in the NL. Unfortunately, the Braves have been unable to put some serious distance between themselves and their divisional opponents since the Marlins have been just as hot and the Phillies have actually matched the Braves stride-for-stride (no pun intended) over their past ten games — both teams are 8-2 and have won six straight. Atlanta's still heading into this series while being eight games clear of Philadelphia but the Phillies honestly have good reason to feel hopeful about sending a message towards Atlanta over the next couple of games.

With that being said, here's hoping that the Braves use their overall quality to overwhelm the Phillies with a win this evening. Spencer Strider has had two bad starts and hopefully that streak ends at two with a performance that we're used to seeing from him. Atlanta's offense has been firing on all cylinders lately and if they can find a way to crack Ranger Suárez's code, then this could be yet another fun night at the office for the Braves.

Game Info

Game Date/Time: Tuesday, June 20, 6:40 p.m. ET

Location: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

TV: Bally Sports South, TBS (out-of-market only)


Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan

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