February 2, 2023

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Braves' Elder twirls eight scoreless innings

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For six-plus innings, Bryce Elder chased history. In the end, he settled for pure dominance.

The No. 4 Braves prospect tossed 6 1/3 no-hit frames on his way to a career-high eight innings to lead Triple-A Gwinnett to a 2-0 win over visiting Louisville, on Monday night. Elder struck out eight, walked one and surrendered two hits to end what had been a horrific month on a high note.

The 23-year-old faced one over the minimum and needed just 70 pitches to navigate through six hitless innings. He set down the first batter in the seventh but yielded his first hit on a first-pitch single by Cristian Santana. Elder responded with consecutive strikeouts to end the seventh and surrendered another single in the eighth before finishing off the frame for the first time in 30 Minor League starts.

“I realized around the sixth inning that I hadn’t given up any hits,” Elder said. “But nothing changed for me. I was just trying to get the hitters to put the ball in play. Walks have been an issue for me so my focus was on letting my defense do its job. I stuck to that plan the entire game.”

The Texas native allowed fewer than two runs for the first time this season during his 97-pitch performance, which lowered his ERA to 5.10.

A sensation in his professional debut last year when he won 11 games with a 2.75 ERA in 25 starts across three Minor League levels, Elder has struggled in the early part of 2022. The right-hander enjoyed a strong Grapefruit League slate, throwing 7 2/3 hitless frames in four starts and broke camp with the Braves. He earned his first Major League win in his debut against the Nationals on April 12 and finished the month with a 4.74 ERA in four starts.

“I didn’t think I threw very well [in the Majors] even though I kept us in games and gave us a chance to win,” Elder admitted. “But it was a great learning experience. One thing in particular I took from it was being able to watch Charlie Morton, who struggled in April. He came in every day with the same attitude and demeanor no matter what. There was no panic or worry. He knew he’d find himself and work through it. That is something that stuck with me.”

It was a meteoric rise for the University of Texas product, who lasted until the fifth round of the 2020 Draft. Elder zipped through the Minors in 2021, opening the year with Low-A and making it all the way to Gwinnett by season’s end. His 155 strikeouts led the organization and were 10th in the Minors.

Elder was optioned to Triple-A on May 1 and has found the going tough in his return to the Stripers, surrendering six runs in two of his previous three starts and 17 runs in 22 innings (6.95 ERA) across four appearances coming into Monday. Despite the bloated ERA, Elder has limited opponents to a .178 average, owns a 0.97 WHIP and has fanned 33 in 30 Triple-A innings.

“The last few weeks have been great, but I don’t think I’ve pitched that badly,” he said. “It’s been one inning or one pitch that I didn’t execute which has cost me. Tonight, I was able to make the pitches I needed to make throughout the game. I think there were just a small handful of pitches I didn’t execute tonight.”

Gwinnett scored the game’s only runs on a wild pitch and a throwing error on the same play in the fourth.

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