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Grin and bear it

More Braves, more Spencer Strider, more of the same.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at San Francisco Giants Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Life must be simple for Spencer Strider: Wake up, spin your fastball, snap your slider, avoid animal byproducts, repeat.

The Atlanta Braves starter and vegan superhuman has spent the last 14 innings of his professional career facing the San Francisco Giants and I don’t think it’d be too much of a reach to say that he probably enjoyed it. His 1-hit, 10-K, 7 inning dominance last Friday (game score 84—second highest of his season) was followed up with a similarly breezy 3-hit, 1-run, 9-K outing.

From the Giants’ perspective, you needed this match-up like you needed a hole in the head. The bats have shown promise as of late only to be undermined by bullpen miscues against these Braves and in Philly. But even with the off-chance that Logan Webb stifles the powerful Atlanta offense, it was going to be an uphill battle against the Braves’ young ace. Any remnants of hope, positivity, cheeky maybe??? fans might have had for this August gauntlet have been replaced with a sober and stoic let’s just get through this. It’s not despair, just a deep understanding of the situation: the Braves are f***ing good.

Final score for Friday’s series opener: 5-1, a non-shutout loss was a mercy.

Strider would throw one pitch and the hitter would somehow be in a 0-2 hole. And once you’re in an 0-2 hole against the MLB strikeout leader, you’re not getting out of it. An elevated fastball or a tight slider—with Strider’s deceptive arm action, your guess is as good as Sabol’s, which doesn’t count for much.

Not to pick on the catcher (who had a solid road trip at the plate), but he was strung between a rock and a hard place on Friday night. He saw 11 pitches over 3 ABs culminating in a meager 2 foul balls and 3 helpless swinging strike threes. It was that kind of night for the entire San Francisco offense. Sitting soft, Strider poured on the vegan cheese substitute. Looking for heat, they got bit by the off-speed. To be mean, he occasionally threw in a change-up that no one had the mental bandwidth to consider. Whatever hitters ordered, he wouldn’t serve them—which makes Spencer Strider pretty much the worst waiter on the planet, but it turns out pitching has little to do with the food industry.

The Strider Slider is not a cheeseburger option at Fuddruckers but a knuckle sandwich. Even if you order it, you don’t really want it. The pitch generates a whiff 57 percent of the time. Of the 14 hacks Giants bats took at that beast last night, 12 missed. 7 of his 9 K’s were finalized with the slider. Strider was essentially operating a piñata with it.

Still, according to Baseball Savant, the slider’s run value dropped from 12 to 11 after last night—which doesn’t make much sense to me. Does Joc Pederson’s lead-off triple in the 7th negate the destruction the slider caused for the previous 6 innings? For the nerds? I guess so. J.D. Davis brought Pederson home to avoid the goose-egg, and the Savants tutted from behind their equations: Strider is slipping…

Apart from that lone extra base hit in the 7th, the Giants offense last night was summed up by 2 hits and a walk by Wade Meckler.

Their best chance against Strider came when the rookie singled with one-out in the 3rd and advanced to second on another single from Luis Matos. With a runner in scoring position, Strider kicked it into gear. LaMonte Wade Jr. was able to foul off an elevated 0-2 fastball but swung over the top of a diving slider for the second out. Thairo Estrada lined a fastball towards the gap in right-center that sounded promising off the bat but Ronald Acuña Jr. tracked it down in the gap to end the inning and save two runs.

Similar to Strider, Logan Webb’s back-to-back starts against the Braves potent lineup were alike. Last Saturday, he allowed 4 runs on 9 hits (1 HR) while striking out 5 over 6 innings pitched. Last night: 5 runs on 6 hits (1 HR) while striking out 1 over 5.1 innings pitched.

It was Webb’s lowest single-game K total of the season, topping his nightmarish 1.1 IP against the Nationals in which he still bagged two strikeouts.

Michael Harris II replaced Eddie Rosario as the resident pest.

As the second batter of the game, Harris turned on an inside sinker and sent it over the arcade. He singled to lead-off the 4th, stole second and scored on a Matt Olson double to score the Braves second run. In the 6th, Harris singled to score Acuña after his triple and eventually came in to score Atlanta’s 5th run on an Olson sac fly after swiping second and advancing to third on a ground-out.

None of these decisive hits were off bad pitches from Webb either. Harris’s homer came on an elevated sinker yes, but it missed on the hands not over the plate. Harris just got around on it. His two other singles came on change-ups properly located below the zone. Olson’s RBI double was similarly dug out and Acuña’s triple was off a low-and-away slider that the outfielder just muscled into triple’s alley.

If you’re Logan Webb what can you do? You’re not giving them anything, they’re just putting good swings on good pitches. Contact, contact, contact—it will drive a pitcher crazy. Webb’s first (and last) strikeout didn’t come until the 5th inning. The AB before that Travis d’Arnaud fouled off 11 pitches in a 14 pitch sequence that ended with a soft ground out to short. All Webb could do was smile.