Remember back a few games ago, when there was a cavalcade of laments about the state of the team's starting pitching, driven largely by some shoddy defensive play almost nightly? Well, the Braves have now thrown three straight shutouts, and it feels like even those complaints happened an eternity ago. Bottom line: Spencer Strider and the bullpen stifled the Giants as the offense scored a few early and never looked back in another breezy win for the Braves.
Strider was perfect through three, but Alex Cobb didn't have anything akin to that level of success early on. Ronald Acuña Jr. led off the game with a single, and moved to third on Michael Harris II’s first of four hits on the night. Cobb struck out Riley, but then suffered a bout of misfortune: Matt Olson hit into what could’ve been an inning-ending double play, but shortstop Brandon Crawford bobbled the ball on the transfer (he did a great job staying with a hard smash after a couple of tough bounces, but couldn’t fully execute), and it went for an RBI forceout instead. Marcell Ozuna followed with a single, and Eddie Rosario lined a fairly bad 0-2 splitter into center to score Harris. Catcher and ball magnet Sean Murphy then took a Cobb pitch in the ribs before Orlando Arcia grounded out to end the frame.
Harris jumped on a 1-2 splitter off the plate away with two outs in the second and yanked it into right-center for a triple, and scored on Riley’s barreled double off the wall in left. Cobb and the Braves offense then largely had a few uneventful innings until the sixth, when a couple of walks by Cobb chased him from the game with Harris due up. The Giants put in a lefty, Scott Alexander, to try and keep it a 3-0 game, but Harris has made real strides against lefties this year and hung in tough enough to be rewarded on a perfectly-placed bouncer up the middle that capped the scoring at 4-0.
The late innings had a bit of throwback fun for the Braves: Luke Jackson loaded the bases (including two walks) but didn’t allow any more runs as he struck out Acuña for the third out, and Tristan Beck, who was traded to the Giants for Mark Melancon once upon a time, threw a 1-2-3 eighth, including denying Harris the chance for a cycle (via homer) or fifth hit.
Strider and the defense had few challenges in this one — it’s amazing what happens when your infield converts routine plays and the fly balls hit against you are hit within the range of your outfielder positioning. (And by “amazing,” I mean, “oh yeah that’s how it’s supposed to work.”) Strider was his usual awesome self, racking up 10 strikeouts against a walk and a hit by pitch; it was kind of to be expected given how anemic the San Francisco offense has been for weeks now. Across seven innings, Strider only faltered and faced more than the minimum in the fourth, when a leadoff walk and a one-out single put a little threat in play against him, but easily got the next two outs, and allowed just one baserunner, erased on a twin killing, the rest of the way.
Joe Jimenez came on for the eighth but didn’t get a chance to finish it after a leadoff walk and a single; A.J. Minter wrapped it up, getting pinch-hitter Austin Slater to line out to a well-placed Harris in center. Raisel Iglesias slammed the door with two punchouts in the ninth.
The offense had another nice night, as Matt Olson was the only guy not to reach base safely. The Braves probably won’t throw another shutout tomorrow, with Yonny Chirinos as the scheduled starter, but you never know...