Braves rookie Spencer Strider strikes out 11 Reds in victory

AP photo by Jeff Dean / Atlanta Braves starter Spencer Strider pitches during Saturday's game against the host Cincinnati Reds. Strider allowed one run, one hit and one walk while striking out 11 batters in a six-inning outing to help the Braves win 4-1.

CINCINNATI - Fair warning to opponents of the Atlanta Braves when they send Spencer Strider to the mound: The hard-throwing rookie doesn't think he has reached his final form.

Strider allowed one hit in six innings and matched a career high with 11 strikeouts, and Austin Riley homered for the second straight game and drove in two runs as the Braves beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-1 on Saturday.

Strider (4-2) didn't allow a hit until there were two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Nick Senzel's single drove in Matt Reynolds, who entered the game after Kyle Farmer was hit by a pitch.

"I'm still trying to extend a little more each time," said Strider, a 23-year-old right-hander who was making his seventh start and 18th appearance for the reigning World Series champions. "I'm starting to stretch out a little bit."

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker's review of Strider's objective?

"Awesome," Snitker said. "He was free and easy. That's two really good ones in a row. His breaking ball was really good."

Dansby Swanson made a diving backhand catch of Joey Votto's pop fly into short left field to end the fourth and keep alive Strider's no-hit bid before Senzel's soft liner to center fell in front of Michael Harris II.

A.J. Minter pitched the seventh and Jesse Chavez the eighth for Atlanta before Will Smith worked the ninth for his fourth save this year.

The Braves (46-33), in second place in the National League East Division standings behind the New York Mets, moved a season-high 13 games over .500 with their fourth win in five games. The Braves, the four-time reigning champs in the division, are now 2 1/2 games behind the Mets, who lost to the Texas Rangers on Saturday.

The loss was Cincinnati's fourth straight overall and 10th in a row at home, the team's longest home losing streak since an 11-game skid in 1986 at Riverfront Stadium. The Reds, last in the NL Central, fell a season-high 25 games under .500 at 26-51.

"There's plenty of frustration - staff, players, myself," manager David Bell said. "I know our players are doing everything in their power to try to turn this around. I'm looking long and hard at what I need to do to turn this around."

Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle set a season high with four walks, including to Harris with the bases loaded in the fourth to force in Atlanta's second run, and he also hit a batter. Mahle (3-7) allowed five hits and two runs with five strikeouts.

"It was definitely a grind," Mahle said. "I wasn't making pitches the whole time. You like to come out of those games that are not good for you with limited damage."

Riley led off the second inning with his 20th homer of the season. It landed four rows deep in the seats beyond left field.

Riley had gone 12 straight games without a homer before going deep in Friday's 9-1 rout to open the three-game series at Great American Ball Park. He led off the second on Saturday with a high arcing fly and later scored on Mahle's bases-loaded walk and added an RBI double in Atlanta's two-run seventh.

"I'm staying through the ball a little better than I have been recently," Riley said. "Staying through the middle of the field really helps."

Riley's homer was his 20th of the season, extending to four the number of consecutive full seasons (not including the 2020 schedule, which was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic) that Atlanta has had at least one player hit 20 or more home runs before MLB's All-Star break. The run started with Ozzie Albies in 2018, was followed by Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman in 2019 and continued with Acuña last season.

Mahle picked Duvall off first base with one out and the bases loaded in the second inning. Duvall headed toward second base on what he thought was ball four to Orlando Arcia, but when an appeal changed the call to strike two, Duvall walked slowly back toward first and was easily thrown out.

Duvall, who had reached when Mahle's pitch hit him on the left hand, left the game after the top of the third and was replaced in left field by Guillermo Heredia.

Before the game, Atlanta right-handed pitcher Jay Jackson (right lat strain) was activated from the 60-day injured list and optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett, while right-hander Touki Toussaint was designated for assignment.

In Sunday's series finale, right-handers will take the mound as Atlanta sends out Charlie Morton (4-3, 4.73 ERA) and the Reds counter with Luis Castillo (3-4, 3.32 ERA). Morton allowed two hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 7-6 win over Cincinnati on April 8. Castillo threw a career-high 123 pitches during six scoreless innings of a 5-3 win over the host Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.