Every October, players rise to the occasion and ink their names into the history books forever. Sometimes it is the superstars, but oftentimes it’s guys that not a lot of people are talking about coming into the postseason.
In 2021, two players come to mind — Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler, both of whom were acquired by the Braves at the trade deadline. Rosario went nuclear in the NLCS, leading Atlanta over their rivals out west. He had 14 hits in the series, including three home runs with 9 RBIs. Without him, the Braves would still be searching for their first World Series title since 1995, and the same can be said for Jorge Soler. The slugging right-hander hit three homers in the World Series, including the blast heard around the world that ultimately led to a series clinching Game 6 victory over the Astros.
For the Braves to win in 2023, a multitude of guys are going to have to come up with big moments that will be remembered in Atlanta until the end of time. However, there is one player in particular that I believe will be the key to another Braves World Series run — the hard-throwing Spencer Strider.
As far as stuff goes, there are few pitchers that have ever touched a baseball that can rival what Spencer Strider brings to the table. He has the ability to completely dominate the most talented of lineups with pure power unlike any other pitcher in the game right now.
Last season, Strider got his first taste of postseason baseball, and it’s a day all of Braves Country would like to forget. He gave up five earned runs over 2.1 innings, as the Phillies clobbered the Braves in a Game 3 victory. However, that’s not the same Spencer Strider that will be toeing the mound this October.
Strider came into the postseason last year injured. He was suffering from an oblique injury that forced him to miss the last few weeks of the season, and the Braves attempted to rush him back with their season on the line. He wasn’t anywhere closer to himself and ran out of gas quickly. This year, he’s 100% healthy, and he has the type of stuff that can change any series.
Strider’s 2023 campaign has been the tale of two different pitchers. Most nights, he looks like the most dominant pitcher on the planet, but there have also been some stinkers mixed in, usually against bad opponents. That’s what he’ll have to avoid this October.
Without Charlie Morton, the Braves need Max Fried and Spencer Strider to pitch their best every time out. I think we know what to expect from Fried at this point, but Strider has yet to prove himself on the big stage. There will be a lot of talk about what happened last year leading up to the NLDS and whether he can handle the moment. Something tells me he’s got something special in store for Braves fans this time around.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire