Spencer Strider dominant as Braves sweep Phillies

AP photo by Edward M. Pio Roda / Spencer Strider pitches for the Atlanta Braves during the first inning of Sunday's home game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

ATLANTA — Spencer Strider's rookie season is going just as he planned.

The 23-year-old right-hander is mowing down hitters, and the Atlanta Braves are making a push for their fifth straight National League East Division title with hopes of also repeating as World Series champions.

"To get here in my first season, I'm lucky to be in this position and I'm very grateful that they had so much faith in me and moved me up here as fast as they did to give me this opportunity," Strider said after Sunday's 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies finished a three-game sweep. "I'm excited for this next stretch here."

Strider, a fourth-round draft pick in 2020, took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and struck out 10 batters, and William Contreras hit a tiebreaking homer.

Strider (11-5) didn't allow a hit until Alec Bohm homered to tie the score 1-1. Rookie center fielder Michael Harris II looked as if he might catch the ball as he leapt, but it went just out of the reach of his glove and over the wall, traveling 412 feet.

Contreras drove a changeup by Connor Brogdon (2-1) for a 410-foot shot into the left-field seats to make it 2-1 in the sixth. Robbie Grossman, who drove in the Braves' first run with a double in the third, homered against Sam Coonrod in the seventh to make it 3-1. Austin Riley followed with a run-scoring single, and Marcell Ozuna added an RBI double in the eighth.

"I just try to do my part," said Grossman, who was traded to Atlanta by the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 1. "Every time I get a chance, I try to contribute. I'm lucky to be on this team. We played good baseball all the way around. When you have good pitching like we do, it's hard to beat us.""

Atlanta improved to 68-28 since June 1, the best record in MLB during that span, and is 91-55 overall this year. With a little more than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the second-place Braves remained one game behind the NL East-leading New York Mets (93-55), who completed a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.

The Braves and Mets have one head-to-head series remaining, Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in Atlanta. Each plays three more games after that to close the schedule.

Strider gave up one run and one hit with three walks in six innings in his sixth double-digit strikeout performance, and three relievers finished a four-hitter. J.T. Realmuto homered off Jesse Chavez in the top of the ninth to make it 5-2.

Strider struck out Nick Maton to begin the fifth, reaching 200 strikeouts for the season and becoming the first Braves rookie with 200 in the modern era. Despite not making his first start until May 30, Strider began the day ranked fourth in the NL with 192 strikeouts in 128 innings.

The most recent MLB rookie pitcher with 200 strikeouts had been Yu Darvish for the Texas Rangers in 2012.

"Everybody tries to pinpoint specific checkpoints that they're trying to achieve," Strider said. "I don't think I was trying to strike out 200 guys in a season. That wasn't a goal of mine. It was just to win games, keep us in games, things that I can control and have control over."

The Phillies went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position after beginning the game with the majors' best average in such situations this season at .276.

"We just didn't score many runs," interim manager Rob Thomson said. "You know how offenses are. It comes and goes. We'll get it going."

Phillies starter Bailey Falter allowed one run and four hits in 4 2/3 innings.

"I want to go deeper in the game," Falter said. "That's a good team. They battled. We battled. It just didn't go our way."

The Braves have won eight straight home games, outscoring opponents 39-11 in that span, and have won 11 of their past 14 games against Philadelphia in Atlanta, outscoring the Phillies 75-44.

Philadelphia started Sunday leading the San Diego Padres by one-half game for the second NL wild card. The Phillies were 59-34 since June 1, tied for the fourth-best winning percentage over that same span, but they have lost four straight after winning five in a row.

Atlanta first baseman Matt Olson went 0-for-4 and is hitting .062 with one homer and four RBIs since Aug. 28. His average has dropped 22 points to .234 over his past 18 games.

The Braves said second baseman Ozzie Albies will wear a cast for three weeks after fracturing his right pinky finger while sliding in Saturday's game, a day after returning to the lineup from an 81-game absence due to a broken left foot. His broken finger will not require surgery, and a postseason return has not been ruled out.

Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list and infielder Rylan Bannon was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett.

The Braves, three games into a 19-game stretch against division foes to close the regular season, will continue their homestand Monday against the Washington Nationals. The scheduled starting pitchers for the opener of their three-game set are both right-handers: Atlanta's Kyle Wright (18-5, 3.18 ERA) and Washington's Cory Abbott (0-2, 4.37).

Also Sunday, the Braves learned President Joe Biden will host them at the White House on Sept. 26 — the same day Atlanta opens a three-game series at Washington — to honor their 2021 World Series title, the club's first since 1995.