Matchups between the Braves and Cardinals are nothing if not…entertaining? Is that the right word?
If you were hoping that a Spencer Strider Day would help right the ship after the Braves’ chaotic loss in Tuesday’s Cardinals series opener, you would, unfortunately, leave Wednesday’s game disappointed. Strider lasted just 2.2 innings—tied for the shortest start of his career—and allowed six runs in Atlanta’s 11-6 loss to St. Louis, bringing the former’s record to 90-48 on the year, while the latter moved to 61-78. The Braves would cut the Cardinals’ advantage to just a pair of runs on two occasions, but they could never take the lead.
Strider struggled from the outset, failing to record an out until the frame’s fifth batter and ultimately throwing 26 pitches to retire the side. Lars Nootbaar led off the game by drawing a full count walk, and then Paul Goldschmidt sent the first pitch he saw over the left field wall to give the Cardinals an early 2-0 lead. Nolan Gorman then reached on a dropped third strike turned wild pitch, and Nolan Arenado reached on a ball to deep short that Orlando Arcia couldn’t quite handle. The runners then stole second and third, respectively, and Gorman scored on a Willson Contreras ground ball up the middle to put St. Louis up 3-0 while marking the game’s first out.
Alec Burleson then almost homered, lacing a ball off the top of the Braves’ bullpen wall that allowed Arenado to score, but Burleson was thrown out at second by Ronald Acuña Jr. Jordan Walker struck out to end the frame, but the Braves found themselves in an early 4-0 hole.
In response in the bottom of the first, Atlanta did put runners on the corners with two outs thanks to an Austin Riley HBP and Matt Olson single to right field, but Marcell Ozuna struck out the pitch after hitting a potential home run ball just foul to end the threat.
Strider ran into more trouble in the second, allowing a leadoff double off the chalk of the right field line to Tommy Edman, who was able to steal third uncontested thanks to a wild pitch of sorts two batters later. Fortunately for the Braves, though, one too-shallow flyout to left field and strikeout later, and Strider escaped the jam unscathed.
The Braves went quietly in the bottom of the second after a Sean Murphy walk was erased by an Arcia GIDP.
St. Louis extended their lead to 6-0 and chased Strider in the third. Gorman led off with a walk on what could be considered Strider’s third wild pitch of the night, and Arenado followed it up with a ground rule double to the left field corner. Contreras dribbled an RBI single past Arcia to score Gorman, and Arenado was plated on a bouncing fielder’s choice off the bat of Burleson. Walker struck out—his second K of the evening and Strider’s 250th of the season—but after Burleson stole second and Strider tossed a four-pitch walk to Edman, Brian Snitker made a call to the bullpen in the form of Ben Heller. Heller struck out Masyn Winn to end the frame.
Strider’s final line was 2.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R (all earned), 3 BB, 5 K, and all of that brought his season ERA to 3.83.
On the offensive side of things, the Braves were retired in order by Dakota Hudson in the bottom of the third.
Heller had a slightly adventurous frame in the fourth, allowing a single to Nootbaar and walking Goldschmidt before helping turn a double play and striking out Arenado to keep the Cardinals off the board.
The Braves broke through in the bottom of the fourth when Olson singled and came around to score on an Ozuna double to deep center. Eddie Rosario kept the rally going with a single, and Murphy walked to load the bases. An Arcia fielder’s choice scored Ozuna and left runners on the corners with two outs, and Michael Harris II did hit a 110MPH liner with potential up the middle, but Winn was in the right place to make a nice play to record the out and leave the score at 6-2.
Recently-recalled Darius Vines entered the game to make his home debut in the top of the fifth, and he walked Contreras—marking the fifth straight leadoff Cardinal to reach—and allowed a single to Burleson to get off to a less-than-ideal start. Vines then settled in, striking out Walker, and Murphy threw out Contreras trying to steal third. Edman grounded out to keep the frame scoreless.
The Braves went quietly in the fifth, and the curse of the Cardinals leadoff man continued to haunt Atlanta pitching in the sixth, as Winn drilled his first career homer to bring the St. Louis lead to 7-2. Vines then retired the next three Cardinals in order, setting the stage for the Braves to finally get some leadoff production of their own in the bottom of the sixth in the form of an Olson solo homer—his third hit of the night, and his third straight game with a homer.
Matt Olson cleared for— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) September 7, 2023
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Ozuna then singled, Rosario doubled to deep right center, Murphy walked to load the bases for the second time, and the Cardinals brought in Casey Lawrence to face Arcia, who reached on a fielder’s choice that resulted in an out at home. But the Braves would not be denied, as Harris II finally found a hole in the Cardinals’ defense and plated two runs to cut the St. Louis lead to 7-5. The rally would be quieted when Acuña Jr. grounded into a double play.
Vines gave way to Joe Jiménez in the top of the seventh, and he retired the St. Louis leadoff batter for the first time in the game, a small victory in and of itself. The positive vibes were short-lived, though, as Contreras hit a wall scraper of a homer.
In the midst of trading baserunners for the rest of the seventh, Atlanta would get the run back on a Riley homer, putting the score at 8-6.
Dylan Lee entered in the eighth for his first home appearance since returning from his extended IL stint, and it appears he’s still shaking off the rust. While he did retire the leadoff man, he would allow a three-run homer to Gorman after Nootbaar reached on a replay-overturned error and Goldschmidt singled.
Nothing much of note happened in the bottom of the eighth—with the exception of Brad Hand allowing yet another leadoff single to a Luken Baker pinch hitting for Burleson, but he didn’t allow a homer, so small victories—or the entire ninth inning—with the exception of Acuña Jr. getting his first hit of the series.
The series concludes with a matchup of Max Fried and Adam Wainwright on Thursday, with first pitch scheduled for 7:20PM