Atlanta Braves ace right-hander Spencer Strider has manhandled the Philadelphia Phillies in the regular season. The same didn’t ring true last October in his one postseason encounter with the club.
After a disastrous start in Game 3 of the 2022 National League Division Series, Strider will try to exact revenge Saturday when the top-seeded Braves host the fourth-seeded Phillies to open this best-of-five NLDS at Atlanta.
Strider allowed five runs on three hits in 2 1/3 innings as Philadelphia gained control of the 2022 NLDS with a 9-1 victory over Atlanta. The Phillies wrapped up the set the following night, unceremoniously sending the Braves into the offseason.
“We wanted this opportunity,” Strider said on Friday. “The way things ended last year, everybody was itching to get back into this environment and have this opportunity. So, we’re excited.”
Strider, 24, rebounded quite nicely from that start, posting majors-best totals in wins (20) and strikeouts (281) to help Atlanta secure MLB’s best record in the regular season (104-58). He went 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA in four starts this season against Philadelphia and boasts an 8-0 mark with a 1.90 ERA in eight career appearances (seven starts) versus the Phillies.
Strider would be wise to pitch carefully to Trea Turner and J.T. Realmuto, who helped Philadelphia flex its muscle during its sweep of the Miami Marlins in the wild-card round. Turner went 4-for-7 with two doubles and Realmuto was 3-for-8 and took seven total bases.
The Braves won eight of the 13 regular-season meetings against the Phillies in 2023, with Matt Olson and Ronald Acuna Jr. leading the way.
Olson, who led the majors with career-best totals in homers (54) and RBIs (139), had six and 15, respectively, versus Philadelphia.
Acuna, who led the majors in hits (217), had 21 to go along with four homers, 10 RBIs and 11 runs in the season series versus the Phillies.
Philadelphia will turn left-hander Ranger Suarez to start the series opener on Saturday. Suarez posted a 4-6 record with a 4.18 ERA in 22 starts this season before joining the rest of the starting pitching staff in watching Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola reel in the Marlins.
Suarez, 28, is no stranger to facing Atlanta in the postseason, having allowed one run on three hits in 3 1/3 innings of a no-decision in Game 1 of the 2022 NLDS. He posted a 2-0 record with a 1.23 ERA and a save in five appearances (three starts) during the postseason.
“We all know that the moment’s not going to be too big for Ranger,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said Friday. “He’s a pretty cool cucumber out there. So we’re confident in that.”
One might wonder if Suarez is too cool — or, more to the point, cold. He last pitched on Sept. 27, and not particularly well. He yielded six runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.
“The last 10 days I’ve been throwing a couple of bullpens,” Suarez said. “Sometimes I get on the mound just to have a good feeling on it, you know, just I don’t want to forget how it feels like to get on the mound. And, yeah, obviously for this game, I’ve been getting mentally ready for it, too.”
Suarez permitted one run on four hits and struck out seven over six innings in a no-decision against Atlanta on June 20. He is 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 16 career appearances (seven starts) versus the Braves.