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First inning runs have become a common occurrence throughout the postseason thus far. The Phillies have actually been somewhat immune to that trend, with only one of their five playoff games having any scoring in the first inning. However, there are reasons to think that Game 4 will be different and feature early scoring. After all, the Phillies were the fourth-best team in 2023 at having first-inning scoring, while the Braves weren’t far behind. The pitching matchup in Game 4 between Spencer Strider and Ranger Suarez also points to at least one run being scored in the first inning of Thursday’s game.
To his credit, Suarez threw 3.2 scoreless innings against the Braves in Game 1, only allowing one hit. But he was also facing an Atlanta lineup that was coming off a long layoff. While the Braves haven’t quite started clicking offensively in this series, they have at least shaken off some rust. It may not be so easy for Suarez in Game 4 to have such a fast start, especially since he pitched to a 4.91 ERA in the first inning of his 22 starts this year. Keep in mind that Atlanta's first three hitters include two MVP candidates in Ronald Acuna Jr. and Matt Olson, as well as Austin Riley. Those three are a combined 15 for 51 (.294) with seven extra-base hits in their careers against Suarez, so it’s not that far-fetched for the Braves to start a rally in the first inning, especially in a must-win game.
On the other side, Strider will start Game 4 for the Braves after a brilliant outing in Game 1, albeit in a losing effort. He has now held the Phillies without a first-inning run in four of his five starts against Philly in 2023. But Strider also had a modest 3.94 ERA in the first inning of his 32 starts this season. He wasn’t quite as dominant early in games as you might think for a pitcher who led the majors in both wins and strikeouts. Strider will also see both Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper in the first inning. Both players are a home run threat who have homered against Strider a combined three times in their careers, including Harper's home run in Game 1. Even if the Phillies can’t string hits against Strider, there is a chance Philly could score early with the long ball, which is one area where Strider can be vulnerable.
Bryan Zarpentine is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2010. During that time, he has contributed to countless sites while covering baseball, soccer, the NFL, college football, and college basketball.More info on Bryan Zarpentine
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