Spencer Howard's first major-league start is in the books. The Braves didn't make it easy on him.
In 4⅔ innings, Howard allowed four runs on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw 81 pitches. The Phillies did not score with him in the game.
Howard threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of the 22 hitters he faced, and after a couple innings the Braves were going up to the plate ready to hack at the first pitch.
Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves' pair of superstars, did the most damage against Howard, going 5 for 6 with two homers and a triple.
Howard was close to getting through his first three innings unscathed but Dansby Swanson beat out a would-be double-play ball by inches. The third inning went on and Freeman took Howard opposite-field for a two-run shot on a 95 mph fastball. Two innings later, Acuña also took Howard oppo. Welcome to the bigs.
Howard allowed a fair amount of hard contact. Even in the scoreless first inning, Freeman lined out hard to right field and Travis d'Arnaud smoked a liner right at third baseman Jean Segura.
There were also some eye-popping pitches and moments from Howard, such as his second-inning strikeout of Adam Duvall. Howard spotted a fastball on the outside corner for a called strike one, threw a nasty hook for a swinging strike two, then pinpointed a fastball inside and at the knees for a called strike three.
Spencer Howard, 74 mph curveball pic.twitter.com/sozfdbD3Wy— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) August 9, 2020
Spencer Howard's bat-breaking 81 mph slider pic.twitter.com/QGRAAKl5Oa— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) August 9, 2020
Spencer Howard, 80 mph changeup pic.twitter.com/yod0Ymn3et— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) August 9, 2020
His fastball averaged 93.5 mph and maxed out at 95.5. Surprisingly, Howard didn't get a single swing-and-miss on the 41 fastballs he threw. He did get seven swinging strikes with his slider and three with the changeup.
Bryce Harper, who had pined for Howard to join the Phillies' rotation, said this about his new teammate:
"I'm excited for him. This is where it starts. It's not minor-league ball anymore, it starts now. Excited to get him up here and get him acclimated to this team and how we go about it. He's a great competitor. He's got plus-plus stuff. Phillies fans should be very excited to see what Spence does.
"He just needs to be Spence. That's the biggest thing when guys get up here, change this or change that, people want to see you do this or do that. But my biggest thing is when guys get up here, I want them to be able to enjoy themselves, take in the moment and really know they have the stuff to be here. I just want him to enjoy the moment."