Heading into this game, you’d imagine that this would’ve been a prime opportunity for Spencer Strider to help get Atlanta’s rotation back on track. After all, Strider has been one of baseball’s best pitchers for a month-and-a-half now and the Pirates were entering this game with one of the worst offenses in baseball according to team wRC+ (89, third-worst in the NL) and team wOBA (.305, second-worst in the NL). Instead, the narrative was turned completely on its head as Strider had an absolute nightmare in Pittsburgh tonight.
The first two innings saw Spencer Strider and Pirates starter Osvaldo Bido trade zeroes but Strider ended up being the first one to blink once the third inning rolled around. Liover Peguero greeted Strider in the third inning with a leadoff double and two productive outs made it 1-0 Pirates at that point. Strider then got ahead 0-2 against Bryan Reynolds and from that point forward, the wheels came off.
He walked Reynolds, gave up an RBI double to Andrew McCutchen, surrendered an RBI single to Henry Davis, walked two more batters and then saw the Pirates plate two mor runs thanks to a single from Jared Triolo. Triolo was the final batter that Strider saw and once the smoke cleared after Michael Tonkin finished off the inning, Strider’s line was a shocking 2.2 IP, 5 hits, 3 walks, 6 earned runs, and just 3 strikeouts. You can make a very good argument for this being Strider’s worst start of the season.
Fortunately, the Braves and their offense are never truly out of a game and the lineup proved up for the task of getting back into the contest. Ozzie Albies hit a one-out homer for Atlanta’s first hit of the game and then Matt Olson recorded an RBI for the tenth straight game by plating Austin Riley from second base to make it 6-2. Sean Murphy got hit by a pitch to put two men on base for Marcell Ozuna and he then hit a single to right that easily plated Olson. It also ended up plating Murphy after Henry Davis whiffed on fielding the grounder and let it roll all the way to the fence in right field.
The four-run flurry made it a game but Atlanta immediately suffered a setback when Connor Joe hit the first pitch he saw from Michael Tonkin in the fourth inning to push Pittsburgh’s lead back to three runs at 7-4. Fortunately, Tonkin was able to settle into the game and that ended up being the only run that went on his line for the night. Faced with digging themselves out of another hole (albeit a smaller one), the Braves got back to work in the fifth inning and scratched another run past the plate to make it a two-run deficit once again. This one came after two singles eventually resulted in Matt Olson continuing his hot run at the plate with a single to right that brought home Ozzie Albies to make the game 7-5, Pittsburgh.
Five innings were initially played before a rain delay paused things until 10:00 P.M. E.T. The Braves didn’t exactly come firing out of the gates upon returning to the field, as they were unable to get much offense going as they headed into the ninth inning. While the Pirates may be struggling this season, they have an excellent closer in the form of David Bednar. That meant that it was going to be very tough sledding for the Braves to pull off a comeback once the ninth inning rolled around. While Michael Harris II was able to smack a leadoff double and get cashed in thanks to two productive outs, it wasn’t enough for the Braves as Riley grounded out to ensure that Atlanta’s comeback bid came up short.
This truly ended up being a nightmarish turn through the rotation for the three starters that the Braves have leaned heavily on during this season. Bryce Elder and Charlie Morton both struggled over the weekend and unfortunately Spencer Strider was unable to stop the bleeding. Atlanta will now be relying on Yonny Chirinos to give them a decent performance tomorrow night as they look to even up the series with the Pirates.