The Arizona Diamondbacks will have to beat the major-league strikeout leader if they want to extend their season-high six-game winning streak against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night in Phoenix.
Arizona, which shares first place with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West, won the opener of the three-game series against NL East-leading Atlanta 3-2 on Friday. The Braves have lost three of their past four games and five of their past seven.
"It's a lot of fun," Arizona first baseman Christian Walker said. "This is why we prepare so hard and put in the preparation and work. This is why we take it so seriously, starting in spring."
The pitching matchup on Saturday will feature a pair of right-handers - Atlanta's Spencer Strider (5-2, 2.97 ERA) vs. Arizona's Ryne Nelson (2-2, 5.37).
Strider, who leads the majors in strikeouts with 106, will make his 12th start of the season. In his most recent appearance, Sunday against Philadelphia, Strider pitched six innings and allowed two runs, two hits and one walk, with nine strikeouts, in earning the win after the Braves scored seven runs in the first inning.
"Getting a lead first is big, especially when you get that big of a lead," Strider said. "When you're putting up runs, my job isn't to be perfect. My job is to get outs."
Strider has struck out at least seven in every start this season. He has double-digit strikeouts in four games.
"It's incredible," teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. said. "Every time he goes out to pitch it seems like he's going to strike everybody out."
Strider has one career start against Arizona, going 0-1. He gave up five runs (three earned) and four hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks in May of last season, striking out seven and walking two.
Arizona's Nelson will make his 12th start of the season. He was roughed up in his most recent start on Monday against the Colorado Rockies. Nelson pitched five innings and allowed five runs on eight hits, three walks and had a season-low one strikeout. In his two previous starts, Nelson had permitted only one run over 11 1/3 innings. The Diamondbacks are 4-0 in his past four starts.
This will be his first career start against the Braves.
Arizona's Ketel Marte was 0-for-4 on Friday, ending his 11-game hitting streak and his career-long 30-game on-base streak.
But the Diamondbacks saw positive signs at the plate from second baseman Geraldo Perdomo. He was 0-for-11 in the recently completed series against Colorado but got two hits Friday against the Braves.
Walker is 6-for-17 with two doubles, a home run and two RBIs over his past five games.
"Just relying on the work," he said. "Try to prepare a certain way every day. Trust in the work and try not to do too much."
Atlanta's Acuna continued to show his dominance in the leadoff role. He beat out an infield single to start the game and is batting .481 (25-for-52) in the first inning this season.
Eddie Rosario hit a pair of solo homers to produce Atlanta's only runs. It was the 11th multi-homer game of his career and his first since 2020.
--Field Level Media