Braves held to two hits as Blue Jays win shutout

The Canadian Press photo by Christopher Katsarov via AP / Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker pulls starting pitcher Spencer Strider, center, during the seventh inning of Friday night's game against the host Toronto Blue Jays. Strider struck out 12 batters but lost for the first time in eight starts this season, with the Blue Jays winning 3-0.

TORONTO — Surprise, surprise: The Atlanta Braves and their powerful lineup were saddled with a rare shutout, and the Toronto Blue Jays needed just one arm to do it.

Chris Bassitt pitched a two-hitter, and Daulton Varsho hit a solo home run as Toronto beat Atlanta 3-0 on Friday night to open a three-game interleague series. It was the second shutout of Bassitt's MLB career and the first by a single pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays in almost eight years.

The shutout was Toronto's sixth overall this season. The Braves were held scoreless for just the second time this season, having also lost 1-0 to the host San Diego Padres on April 19.

Bassitt (5-2), though, frustrated Atlanta's bats with relative ease as he extended his scoreless innings streak to a career-high 20. He struck out eight batters and walked two in the Blue Jays' first individual shutout since Mark Buehrle accomplished the feat against the Washington Nationals on June 3, 2015.

"It just felt like he was in complete control of everything he threw," Blue Jays outfielder George Springer said of Bassitt, who threw 70 of his 103 pitches for strikes to win his fourth straight decision.

Said Bassitt, whose two shutouts are his only complete games in 131 career starts in Major League Baseball: "I just executed a lot better than most nights. We had a really good game plan going in, and I pretty much executed it."

Bassitt's other shutout came with the Oakland Athletics on May 27, 2021, when he blanked the Los Angeles Angels.

"He was just on, man," Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Bassitt. "We didn't barrel up too many balls, that's for sure."

Blue Jays manager John Schneider came to the mound with two outs in the eighth inning as the Braves turned their lineup over, but he didn't bring closer Jordan Romano in from the bullpen.

"With the way he was throwing, he deserved a chance to stay out there," Schneider said of Bassitt.

Bassitt's previous career best scoreless streak was 18 1/3 innings with Oakland in July and August 2015.

Atlanta lost a road series opener for the first time this season after winning six straight to start the year. The Braves came in with a 15-3 road record that was the best in the majors this year.

Springer had an RBI single in the fifth to drive in the first run of the game for Toronto, which improved to 10-3 at home. The Blue Jays have won six of their past seven north of the border. Their 13 home games so far this season are the fewest in the majors.

Varsho made it 3-0 with a solo drive off Kirby Yates in the eighth, his sixth home run this year. Varsho connected after striking out three times against Braves starter Spencer Strider.

Strider (4-1) lost for the first time in eight starts this season, allowing two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.

"He kept us right there," Snitker said. "It was a very strong outing."

Strider struck out 12 batters, boosting his MLB-leading total to 79 strikeouts in 2023.

"The only trouble we got in was when I started thinking and stopped executing a couple of times," Strider said.

After striking out in his first two at-bats, Springer opened the scoring with his two-out single in the fifth.

When Springer broke for second base on outfielder Eddie Rosario's throw to the plate, Kevin Kiermaier tried to score from third. Umpire Laz Diaz initially ruled Kiermaier safe, but the Braves challenged and the call was overturned.

Toronto made it 2-0 in the seventh when pinch-runner Nathan Lukes scored on a bases-loaded passed ball by Sean Murphy.

Rosario's one-out double in the fifth was Atlanta's first hit of the game, but he was thrown out trying to steal third base.

Later in the inning, the Braves used a pair of hit batters and a walk to load the bases with two outs, but Bassitt got Orlando Arcia, the lineup's No. 9 hitter, to foul out.

When the series continues Saturday, both teams will start right-handers, with the Braves going with Bryce Elder (3-0, 1.74 ERA) and the Blue Jays countering with José Berríos (3-3, 4.91).