ATLANTA — A move toward simplicity served Spencer Strider well in his first home start.
The adjustment could help the 23-year-old right-hander keep his newfound 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. In the American League, the Houston Astros — the team Atlanta beat to win the World Series last fall — and the New York Yankees have had 11-game streaks this year.
The Braves are on their longest streak since another nine-game run from Aug. 13-22, 2021. The Pirates have lost four straight, matching their longest skid of the season.
Strider (2-2) allowed only four hits with eight strikeouts and one walk in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. In his first home start and only his third overall, he pitched into the sixth inning for the first time.
"I definitely wanted to simplify things," Strider said, explaining he felt he made pitching too difficult in his previous start, when he lasted only 4 1/3 innings and received no decision in a 6-2 road win against the Colorado Rockies last Saturday.
Strider said his plan was to "just focus on being in line to the plate," and he allowed only two hits through his first five innings.
He began the season in the bullpen 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, after 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 the rotation after attempts to find a fifth starter behind Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson.
"This is the next step in getting him 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.
Strider had 14 pitches clocked at 99 mph or higher for the third time this season. However, he 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."
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 II, 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 bottom of 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.
Acuña made a leaping catch on the right-field warning track of a drive hit by Michael Perez in the seventh.
Atlanta led 4-0 before Chavis hit a ground-rule double off Jackson Stephens that bounced over the left-field wall to drive in Reynolds in the eighth. Stephens had stayed in after Reynolds' grounder hit his right knee, leading to Reynolds' second infield single of the game. 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 this year.
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."
Atlanta left-handed reliever 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.
Also Friday, the Braves claimed first baseman Mike Ford off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. Ford, who played 101 games with the New York Yankees from 2019-21, was designated for assignment by Seattle on Sunday.
The Braves optioned Ford, 29, to Triple-A Gwinnett. To clear a spot on Atlanta's 40-man roster, infielder Joseph Dunand was designated for assignment. Dunand had been optioned to Gwinnett after he was claimed off waivers from the Miami Marlins on June 1.
Ford hit .259 with 12 homers and 25 RBIs in 50 games for the Yankees in 2019. He hit .182 in 33 at-bats with the San Francisco Giants and Seattle this season. Overall, he has a .197 career batting average with 17 homers and 46 RBIs.