September 27, 2022

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Albies keeps homering, while Strider shows maturity

4 min read
Braves allow late rally, but Dickerson and Swanson provide silver linings
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ATLANTA — Though the Braves received some much-appreciated contributions from the bottom of their lineup, their bullpen squandered a couple late leads in a 9-7 loss to the Marlins on Saturday night at Truist Park.

Ozzie Albies got things rolling with his MLB-high sixth homer and Dansby Swanson helped the Braves reclaim the lead with a go-ahead single. But on a night when the defending World Series champs showed lineup depth, Collin McHugh stumbled during a three-run sixth and rookie Spencer Strider proved unable to prevent Miami’s insurmountable three-run seventh.

“We take pride in being able to shut games down and we should,” McHugh said. “We have a lot of talent down there. Strider is a great example of that. These days are going to happen in the big leagues.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

Leadoff homers
Ian Anderson labored through five innings, totaling 51 pitches in his final two frames. The young right-hander has shown an ability to battle. But as he continues to develop, he will need to be more consistently efficient.

Anderson allowed three runs, two of them earned, with the first coming courtesy of Jazz Chisholm Jr. drilling the game’s opening pitch over the right-center-field wall. Albies responded by homering against Marlins starter Elieser Hernandez’s first pitch of the night.

According to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, this was just the second time both team’s leadoff hitters hit a first-pitch leadoff home run in the same game since pitch counts began being tracked (1988). The only other occurrence was when the Marlins’ Miguel Rojas and the Mets’ Jonathan Villar did this on Sept. 2, 2021.

Albies is tied with the Rockies’ C.J. Cron for the MLB lead in home runs with six. The Braves second baseman has hit each of those six while producing a 1.050 OPS over his past 11 games, dating back to April 12. He’ll likely return to the middle of the lineup when Ronald Acuña Jr. is activated from the injured list. But he’s currently creating value in the leadoff spot.

Growing pains
Presented with a 7-6 lead after Swanson recorded a two-run single in the sixth, Braves manager Brian Snitker turned to Strider, who had allowed just one run in a combined nine innings over his three previous appearances this year. The veteran skipper wanted to see how his triple-digit flamethrower would react when placed in a high-leverage situation for the first time in his career.

Strider issued two walks and surrendered two singles while facing just four batters. He was charged with three runs without recording an out. But he again showed the maturity that helped him make the leap from Single-A to the Majors while experiencing his first professional season last year. The 23-year-old right-hander acknowledged he may have been squeezed while issuing Brian Anderson a leadoff walk. But he didn’t use that as an excuse.

“I felt the first two pitches of that at-bat were good pitches,” Strider said. “But I’m not out there trying to get takes. I’m out there trying to miss bats. I want guys to swing and I want to attack hitters. If I’m not forcing swings and I’m relying on the umpire, then I’m not pitching the way I need to.”

Strider’s stuff was still impressive. He induced a whiff on four of the eight swings attempted against his four-seam fastball, which touched 101.7 mph and averaged 99.7 mph on Saturday. The two-run single he surrendered to Garrett Cooper had just a 74.1 mph exit velocity.

“It was good for him to experience that,” Snitker said. “You knew even if he settled in, there would be some ups and downs. The kid has a year of pro ball under his belt. It didn’t work out, but it will the next time.”

Good signs
Alex Dickerson got a much-needed boost when he hit a two-run homer in the fourth. Dickerson entered that at-bat hitting just 1-for-23 on the year. The Braves also got a triple and the two-run single from Swanson, who entered the game hitting .157 with a .467 OPS.

Swanson ranks second in the Majors with 23 strikeouts, but has struck out just three times over his past four games. The veteran shortstop is far from being where he wants to be, but Snitker has seen some progress.

“I’ve seen [Swanson] go through these stretches and he always has the mental toughness to get through it,” Snitker said. “The last couple nights, he’s looked pretty good.”

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