The Atlanta Braves sealed their sixth straight division title on Wednesday night by doing what they’ve done all year—scoring in the first inning and never looking back—in what ended in a 4-1 victory. With the win, Atlanta improved to 96-50 on the year, while the Phillies moved to 79-67.
Atlanta’s offense came to the field ready to celebrate. Facing Cristopher Sanchez, the first three balls the Braves put in play all had exit velocities of over 105 MPH and came in the form of a Ronald Acuña Jr. lineout, an Ozzie Albies double, and an Austin Riley 447-foot homer to the concourse in center field, giving Spencer Strider a 2-0 lead before he even took the mound.
When he did take the mound, Strider had an adventure of a 36-pitch first inning. He walked the leadoff man in Kyle Schwarber and then Bryce Harper two batters later to put two on with one out. A strikeout of Alec Bohm and ensuing 0-2 count on Bryson Stott made it look like Strider might get out of it, but Stott ended up lacing an RBI single to bring Schwarber home. Strider then struck out Brandon Marsh to end the threat.
Both pitchers settled in with 1-2-3 innings in the second, with Strider only needing 11 pitches this time, which set the tone for the remainder of his outing. For the next four innings, the only baserunners he would allow came via a pair of two-out singles by Marsh and Bohm in the fourth and sixth, respectively.
Spencer Strider, 99mph ⛽️ pic.twitter.com/pjmNeoUt5P— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 14, 2023
The Braves brought their lead back up to a pair of runs in the third. With one out, Acuña Jr. hit a single over a jumping Trea Turner, and Albies followed it up with one that dropped just out of reach of Nick Castellanos down the right field line, allowing Acuña Jr. to advance to third. He came around to score on a Riley sacrifice fly just shy of the warning track in center.
Marcell Ozuna led off the Braves’ half of the fourth with a double and advanced to third on a Sean Murphy groundout, ultimately scoring on a double by Kevin Pillar, who had earned the start in left field with the lefty Sanchez on the mound.
To give credit where credit is due, Sanchez was effective against the Atlanta lineup. In his 7.1 innings pitched, he allowed the four runs on eight hits, but he also struck out 10. The closest the Braves came to scoring off him after the fourth was in the seventh, when Acuña Jr. laced a two-out single, stole second—his 66th stolen base of the year—and advanced to third on an errant throw. Albies then walked, but Riley fouled out to Stott, who made a sliding catch up against the wall to end the threat.
Sitting at 97 pitches, Strider remained in the game for the seventh. He struck out Marsh before giving up a single to Castellanos, but a Garrett Stubbs popout and emphatic Johan Rojas strikeout kept the Phillies off the board. So, for as chaotic as the first inning was, Strider ended up giving up just the one run on four hits with two walks and nine strikeouts on 110 pitches in 7.0 innings pitched—a performance the Braves very much needed with a taxed bullpen waiting in the wings.
Spencer Strider, 97mph Fastball and 84mph Slider, Overlay pic.twitter.com/TaWwMZFsHV— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 14, 2023
Brad Hand relieved Strider in the eighth and retired Schwarber, Turner, and Harper in order.
The Braves put runners on the corners with two outs in the top of the ninth against Dylan Covey when Pillar singled and advanced to third on an Acuña Jr. single—his third hit of the game—but Albies grounded out to Harper to end the chance of any insurance.
Kirby Yates entered the game in the ninth and tossed a 1-2-3 frame, with a strikeout of Marsh sealing the division title.
The Braves have a well-earned off day tomorrow and will travel to Miami to begin a three-game set with the Marlins on Friday. Bryce Elder is scheduled to face off against Johnny Cueto in the series opener.