All-Star pitchers face off in Diamondbacks-Braves finale

Two of the National League’s top pitchers are scheduled to go head-to-head on Thursday afternoon when the Atlanta Braves host the Arizona Diamondbacks in the finale of a three-game series

The Braves need a big performance from right-hander Spencer Strider after losing the first two games of the series and four straight overall. NL All-Star starter Zac Gallen will get the ball for the Diamondbacks

Atlanta is already guaranteed to lose a second straight series after winning 11 straight, but the Braves will be trying to avoid getting swept for the first time since losing three straight to the host Toronto Blue Jays from May 12-14

Strider (11-3, 3.66 ERA) and Gallen (11-4, 3.14) are among five pitchers tied for the major league lead in victories.

Strider also leads the majors by a wide margin with 176 strikeouts. The next-closest pitcher is Toronto’s Kevin Gausman with 153.

Gallen threw a scoreless inning last week in his All-Star debut, but the 27-year-old right-hander struggled in his first game back from the break on Saturday. He allowed three runs and six hits in five innings during a 5-2 loss at Toronto. Gallen struck out five and issued three walks.

“I just really couldn’t put guys away,” he said. “I was making decent pitches. They were fouling them off, and they were just waiting me out to kind of get pitches they could handle.”

Strider, a 24-year-old right-hander, is also coming off his first All-Star selection.

He did not appear in the All-Star Game, but also struggled in his first game after the break. Strider yielded five runs and eight hits in six innings during a 6-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. He did strike out 10 without issuing a walk.

Strider had won five straight starts and seven consecutive decisions before losing to Chicago.

“These guys executed a game plan against one of the best pitchers in baseball, if not the best,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “This guy has power stuff, and he pounds the strike zone with 100 mph fastballs.”

Strider’s control may have been too good against the White Sox, as he threw 72 of 97 pitches for strikes.

Five of Chicago’s eight hits off Strider came with two strikes.

“It wasn’t great results, I guess,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Strider’s most recent outing. “His stuff was really good. There’s probably a point in the game where he was throwing too many strikes. I think that’s maybe the cause of some of the two-strike hits.

Strider has faced the Diamondbacks twice in his major league career, going 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA. He beat them on June 3, allowing two runs and three hits in six innings with seven strikeouts and a season-high four walks

Gallen has made three starts against the Braves, producing a 2-0 record with a 1.93 ERA. He faced them on June 4 and did not get a decision in the Diamondbacks‘ 8-5 loss, allowing three runs (two earned) and nine hits in six innings. Gallen fanned six and walked one

Arizona won a 16-13 slugfest in the series opener on Tuesday, then posted a 5-3 victory on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

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