By CHARLES ODUM
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Spencer Strider struggled to understand why his Braves teammates started talking to him about John Smoltz when he completed the eighth inning against Colorado.
The rookie had no idea he broke an Atlanta record held by the Hall of Famer.
Strider struck out 16 batters — the most by any Braves pitcher since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966 — while allowing two hits in eight innings to lead the Braves to a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night.
Strider fanned his last two batters with two runners on base in the eighth — with his fastball still hitting 98 mph — to complete his masterful 106-pitch outing.
“I lost track after five (innings),” said Strider of his strikeout count. Teammate Kyle Wright filled in the rookie about the record.
“I came out of the game and Kyle was telling me something about John Smoltz or whatever. It didn’t make any sense,” Strider said.
Finally, Strider was made to understand.
“It’s pretty wild, the guys who’ve thrown in this organization, it’s a long, incredible list,” Strider said. “I’m just grateful to be here and having success.”
Austin Riley and rookie Michael Harris II hit solo home runs for Atlanta.
Strider threw only 42 pitches threw his first four innings, setting a pace that allowed him to log his longest career start. He did not walk a batter.
Smoltz struck out 15 in a game twice — against Montreal on May 24, 1992 and against the New York Mets on April 10, 2005. Hall of Famer Warren Spahn holds the overall Braves record with 18 strikeouts against the Chicago Cubs on June 14, 1952, when the team played in Boston.
Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his 31st save in 36 chances.
The Braves won two of three against Colorado and remained three games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets.
Strider (9-4) was dominant in extending the Rockies’ road woes. Colorado fell to 20-44 away from Coors Field, a .313 winning percentage that ranks last in the majors. The right-hander struck out the side in the second and seventh innings.
Strider lasted only four innings and had five walks in the Braves’ 6-2 win at Colorado on June 4. This time, the rookie had far better control.
“It’s plus velocity and I felt like one thing he was able to do better tonight was throw his slider more effectively,” Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon said. “I think that’s kind of what made him better tonight. It looked like he settled in and had a very good feel for that slider.”
Strider’s previous high was 13 strikeouts in a 13-1 win over Philadelphia on Aug. 2.
Strider retired Colorado’s first 12 hitters before C.J. Cron lofted a soft single into right field to lead off the fifth. He didn’t allow another hit until Michael Toglia’s single to right with one out in the eighth.
Elias Díaz then reached when first baseman Matt Olson was charged with an error after missing shortstop Dansby Swanson’s throw, leaving runners on first and third. Swanson struck out Elehuris Montero and then fanned Sean Bouchard — both of whom whiffed on sliders — to polish off his gem.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said Strider inspired comparisons to former Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, now with the Dodgers, in spring training.
“Now he looks more like Tom Seaver,” Snitker said.
KUHL FADES IN FIFTH
Rockies right-hander Chad Kuhl (6-8) allowed three runs on five hits, including two homers and one walk in 4 2/3 innings. Kuhl recorded his first four outs on strikeouts but left the game after giving up two runs in the fifth, including Dansby Swanson’s run-scoring single.
Making only his 30th career appearance and 17th start, Strider posted his fifth career game with at least 10 strikeouts. He has won his last three decisions and has shown no signs of fading late in the season. He began the year in Atlanta’s bullpen.
Strider set a Braves single-game rookie record for strikeouts, the most for any pitcher in the majors since Colorado’s John Gray had 16 while shutting out San Diego on Sept. 17, 2016.
Strider’s performance tied for the second-most strikeouts without a walk by a rookie. The Cubs’ Kerry Wood had 20 Ks and no free passes against the Houston Astros on May 6, 1998.
Rockies: OF Yonathan Daza (shoulder) is beginning a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque. … RHP Chad Smith and IF Alan Trejo were recalled from Albuquerque.
Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies (broken left foot) had no hits in four at-bats as he began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett. … RHP Mike Soroka (right Achilles tendon) was reinstated from the injury list and optioned to Gwinnett, where he is scheduled to make his fourth rehab start on Friday. … IF Orlando Arcia (strained left hamstring) was activated from the IL after missing 20 games. … RHP Jesse Chavez, claimed off waivers from the Angels on Tuesday, was activated.
Rockies: LHP Kyle Freeland (7-9, 4.88 ERA) is scheduled to face Reds RHP Luis Cessa (3-2, 5.36) in Friday night’s opener of a three-game series at Cincinnati.
Braves: RHP Charlie Morton (6-5 4.10) will look to improve his career 10-5 record and 4.08 ERA against Miami when he faces Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara (12-6, 2.13). Alcantara is 4-1 with a 1.74 ERA in nine career starts against the Braves, including a 2-0 mark in five starts at Truist Park.
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