ATLANTA (AP) — A move toward simplicity served Spencer Strider well in his first home start.
The adjustment could help Strider keep his new-found place in the Atlanta Braves’ rotation.
Strider outpitched Roansy Contreras in a matchup of hard-throwing rookies, Dansby Swanson had three hits, including a two-run homer, and the Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 on Friday night for their ninth straight win.
The winning streak is the National League’s longest this season. Houston and the New York Yankees have had 11-game streaks.
The Pirates have lost four straight, matching their longest losing skid of the season.
Strider (2-2) allowed only four hits with eight strikeouts and one walk in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Strider, making his first home start and only his third overall, pitched into the sixth inning for the first time.
“I definitely wanted to simplify things,” Strider said, adding he felt he made things too difficult for himself in his last start, when he lasted only 4 1/3 innings and received no decision in a 6-2 win at Colorado on Saturday.
Strider said his plan was to “just focus on being in line to the plate.” He allowed only two hits through his first five innings.
The 23-year-old Strider began the season as a reliever before moving into the No. 5 spot in the rotation. He gave credit to Swanson for giving him a confidence boost, as well as some pointers, following his start at Colorado.
“He was just relaying to me that my stuff is good and he’s seeing it behind me,” Strider said, referring to Swanson’s view of his work from his shortstop position. “He can tell when I’m getting too complicated.”
Strider’s growth has provided depth to a rotation following attempts to find a fifth starter behind Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson.
“This is the next step in getting hi to where we want him to be,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, adding it was “pretty good, awesome” for Strider to pitch into the sixth.
Contreras (1-1) had seven strikeouts, including four in his first pass through the Braves’ lineup, in his fourth start. The 22-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic allowed four runs — three earned — and eight hits with one walk in 4 2/3 innings.
Swanson’s third-inning homer off the left-field foul pole drove in rookie Michael Harris, who singled and stole second. Ronald Acuña Jr. reached on an infield hit and was caught stealing before Swanson’s homer.
Ozzie Albies’ double to right field off Contreras in the fourth drove in Travis d’Arnaud, who singled and moved to second on left fielder Travis Swaggerty’s fielding error.
Matt Olson added a run-scoring single in the fifth.
Strider was pulled after giving up singles to Bryan Reynolds and Michael Chavis in the sixth. Dylan Lee struck out Cal Mitchell to end the inning.
Atlanta’s winning streak is its longest since another nine-game run from Aug. 13-22, 2021.
Atlanta led 4-0 before Chavis hit a ground-rule double off Jackson Stephens that bounced over the left-field to drive in Reynolds in the eighth. Cal Mitchell’s sacrifice fly drove in Daniel Vogelbach, cutting the Braves’ lead to two runs.
Kenley Jansen recorded three straight outs in the ninth for his 17th save in 20 chances.
STRIDER’S HEAT — AND ADJUSTMENTS
Strider had 14 pitches clocked at 99 mph or higher for the third time this season. In his move from the bullpen, however, the right-hander has continued to place more emphasis on his slider and changeup.
“He’s made some adjustments,” Snitker said, noting Strider’s increased reliance on his slider. “Very impressive.”
Including Contreras, the Pirates started five rookies. When asked about his lineup before the game, manager Derek Shelton smiled and said “we have three to five in there about every night.”
Acuña made a leaping catch on the right-field warning track of a drive hit by Michael Perez in the seventh.
Pirates: RHP Tyle Beede remained in the game after being hit near his hip by a liner from Swanson in the seventh. Swanson reached on an infield hit on the play.
Braves: Stephens stayed in after Reynolds’ grounder hit his right knee in the eighth. Reynolds reached on his second infield single of the game before scoring on the double by Chavis. … LHP Tyler Matzek (left shoulder inflammation) threw long toss in the outfield before the game for the first time since being placed on the 10-day injured list on May 17. The next step is for Matzek to be cleared to throw from a mound.
Braves RHP Charlie Morton (4-3, 5.63) will make his first career start against Pittsburgh, where he pitched from 2009-15, when he faces RHP Zach Thompson (3-4, 4.60) as the four-game series continues Saturday.
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