PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Spencer Strider could not watch Nick Castellanos’ second home run off him in Game 4. The 20-game winner simply accepted his fate — he gave the ball to Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker and awaited a reception almost as rude as the homers.
Strider put his head down and walked toward the dugout as 45,000 fired-up, towel-waving Phillies fans — that had heckled and derisively chanted his name since he warmed up — pointed fingers at the pitcher and gave him the business one more time.
Strider never broke stride, never looked up. If he had, Strider might have read the sign that read “Bye-Bye Strider.”
It was soon bye-bye Braves — once again an October departure in Philly.
When the bats in a lineup that hit 307 homers this season fell silent, so did Atlanta in a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Thursday night.
“You look at the playoff format, you don’t need to be a great team all year,” Strider said. “You need to get to the playoffs and then it’s a different game.”
One the Braves haven’t yet mastered.
A year after the 101-win Braves were eliminated in Game 4 in Philly, this season’s 104-win edition suffered the same cruel fate. They scored a total of eight runs in the series.
“Pretty much just told them they have nothing to hang their heads about. It stinks what just happened,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We wanted to go deep into this postseason, but I said it my first meeting every year, it’s like we want to check the first box, win the division because you never know what might happen. And we hit 300 some homers and didn’t happen in this playoff series.”
Maybe it was the short break from the regular season to the start of the NLDS that cooled off the Braves. Ronald Acuña Jr., one of the front-runners for NL MVP, was 2 for 14 in the four games. Marcell Ozuna and Orlando Arcia each went 2 for 13. Michael Harris II went hitless in 13 at-bats.
Austin Riley homered in the fourth inning of Game 4, but that was it for the Braves.
Trailing 3-1 in the seventh, Atlanta loaded the bases on three two-out walks. Craig Kimbrel then retired Acuña on a deep fly ball that was run down by rookie center fielder Johan Rojas.
Strider allowed two homers to Castellanos, a go-ahead shot to Trea Turner — who entered 0 for 17 lifetime against Strider — struck out seven and threw 96 pitches in 5 2/3 innings.
“They didn’t have a cheat code,” Strider said. “If you ask them, I’m sure they’ll tell you I hung a couple of sliders.”
Just one month earlier, the Braves took three of four and clinched their sixth straight NL East title in Philadelphia. The Braves went 8-5 against the Phillies in the regular season.
Those numbers were as empty as the Braves offense.
The franchise that put together an unprecedented streak of 14 straight division titles in the 1990s and 2000s tried for one more memorable run just two seasons removed from winning a World Series.
But outside of a fantastic Game 2 rally, little went right for the Braves.
Phillies fans had saved the worst for Strider, who is 8-0 in the regular season against the Phillies and a disaster in the postseason against them. Phillies fans chanted “We Want Strider” in Game 3, and then reserved their loudest pregame boos for him in Game 4.
Strider, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, had said in an interview “there should be no fans” at the ballgame.
“Get rid of the fans, it’s too loud,” he told MLB Fits. “It’s too loud, everybody be quiet. We don’t need the cheering, we know you’re watching. I don’t need the fans.”
Joking or not, the Phillies needed little incentive to jump all over the ace right-hander. Some fans wore T-shirts that read “Is This Too Loud For You Spencer?” and others held signs with the same message.
It was part of quirky series overall for the Braves.
The social media user behind the account for the mascot Blooper oddly took aim on the Phillie Phanatic, writing “his last highlight was recorded with a flash.” Phillies fans spent the rest of the remaining games roasting Blooper.
But Blooper was far from the only error.
After Philadelphia star Bryce Harper committed a baserunning blunder that closed out Atlanta’s Game 2 win, Arcia cracked “Attaboy, Harper!” inside of the Braves’ jubilant clubhouse. Harper responded with two homers in Game 3, staring at the shortstop as he rounded the bases after each drive.
Atlanta joins this year’s list of playoff teams that tore through the regular season only to flop in October.
The teams with the five best regular-season records — the Braves, Baltimore (101 wins), Dodgers (100), Tampa Bay (99) and Milwaukee (92) — all failed to reach the LCS.
“We got beat and didn’t play good enough to win the series. It’s as simple as that,” Snitker said. “We got beat by a really good club that has a penchant for it this time of year.”
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