SAN DIEGO – With less than a full year of experience as a major league starter, Spencer Stryder is already matching or flirting with the records set by Hall of Famers John Smoltz and Nolan Ryan.
Stryder carried an unsuccessful pitch in the sixth inning and became the leader of MLB’s offense as he helped the Braves win their eighth straight, 8-1 over the Padres on Tuesday night at Petco Park.
Stryder attributed the performance to the aggressiveness he recovered last week during his debut against the Reds.
“It was the first outing this year where I felt like me,” said Stryder. “At Clemson, we had an approach where if you’re a rookie or a reliever, you’re closer to that role and then again to the next. That’s how I did last year. I had to find that mentality.”
Life was good for the Braves, and now it could be even better with Stryder regaining his attacking mentality. The latest electric right-hander effort was aided by Sean Murphy’s early home run and then three homers by Ozzie Albies and Matt Olson in the final two innings.
Murphy’s home run made him the first player in Atlanta history (since 1966) to have 11 consecutive hits for extra bases. The veteran catcher also helped Strider record nine hits, allowing only one hit over six scoreless innings. Juan Soto’s single at number six was just that hit.
“Spencer has some gifts that other people don’t,” Murphy said.
Stryder recorded at least nine strikeouts in eight consecutive regular season starts, matching the franchise record set by Smoltz in 1997. Ryan set an MLB record when he struck out at least nine strikeouts over 11 consecutive starts in 1977.
“This is a very good company,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “What he did in a very short period of time was very impressive.”
To fully appreciate Strider’s association with a legend like Smoltz, it’s best to remember that he only had one professional season under his belt before starting last year’s bullpen in Atlanta. Stryder joined the starting rotation at the end of May and remains the first rookie in franchise history to record a 200-strikeout season.
In fact, Stryder reached 200 strikeouts in 130 innings pitched, faster than any pitcher in American League or National League history.
This year, Stryder has not had a double-digit strikeout total in any of his first four starts, but he has had nine strikeouts in each of them. He has an MLB-best 36 strikeouts – more than just 22 innings.
“His stuff is pretty good,” said Murphy. “He can go out there and throw almost everything. As long as we get it done, I like our odds. It’s just something you can do with things like that.”
Strider has the ability to beat hitters with a three-digit fastball. He hit 99.6 mph and 99.5 mph while making a seven-pitch walk to Soto in the fourth inning. Stryder led 0-2 and didn’t get a call from the bottom zone he wanted with the third and seventh pitches coming off the plate.
When Soto came to the plate again in the sixth, he immediately saw a pair of heaters clocking in at 99.1 mph. Then he killed the unsuccessful attempt by whipping a 98.9 mph sprint past second baseman Albees. Matt Carpenter, who walked in the second, and Xander Bogaerts, who was hit by a pitch in the fourth, were the only ones not named Soto for a Strider hit.
“I never felt when the parades were running or when I was being left behind, that I was out of it,” Strider said. “This is something I didn’t really feel until this beginning. This is a huge step in the right direction.”
Restoring a more aggressive approach might have helped Strider, but it doesn’t hurt that his arsenal also includes a sick slider. The Padres swung nine of his 20 swings against the slider and eight of his 23 swings against his four-seam fastball.
Stryder struck out 40.9% (36 of 88) of the batters he faced this year. That’s better than the best MLB-38.3% strikeout rate he produced last year. Not bad, considering he never really felt like himself before regaining his superiority.
“It’s really special, and it’s still learning,” said Snicker. “His stuff is very electric.”
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