Atlanta Braves: this is what “stepping up” looks like

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried (54) pitches against the San Diego Padres. Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried (54) pitches against the San Diego Padres. Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports /

The season didn’t start that well for Atlanta Braves starter Max Fried, but at the right time, he’s been at his best.

You might recall that the 2020 season was something of a breakout campaign for Max Fried as he led the Atlanta Braves to their division title with a 7-0 record and 2.25 ERA… after having that figure below 2.00 for much of the “season”.

This season has been more of a struggle after a stumbling start.  On April 1st, Max opened the season by giving up 2 runs in 5 innings, but then proceeded to yield 5 and 7 earned runs in his next two starts.

Something didn’t seem right, and indeed he was added to the injured list with a hamstring issue.

On May 5th, he returned to the mound and looked like all was well:  4 straight single-run outings in May that averaged 6 complete innings apiece.

Then there were a couple of hiccups in early June, the second of which caused him to miss a start due to a finger blister — a common issue that had plagued him in the past.

In coming back from that, Fried appeared to be searching and struggling to find a rhythm:  he’d give of 3+ runs in one start, then do something like shutting out the mighty Rays before dropping a decision to the Phillies.

When August began, though:  Fried has locked in.  Max now has 11 “quality starts” in a row dating back to July 28.  In four of these, he’s given up no runs.  But 2 of those have been “next level” special.

When he shut down the Orioles on 4 hits on August 20, it was easy to say “great job, but that’s Baltimore.”  Last night’s masterpiece against the Padres, though?  It was even better:  three hits allowed in a no-walk complete-game shutout against a potent lineup.

It was not only Fried’s 2nd complete game of the year, it was his second “Maddux”:  a shutout with fewer than 100 pitches thrown.

  • Only 3 pitchers this season have more complete games (Wheeler, Wainwright, Marquez).
  • 4 others have 2 apiece.
    • Sunday’s starter for the Padres — Joe Musgrove — is one of those.
  • 1 of Wheeler’s CG’s lasted 7 innings (and he gave up 3 runs that day).  He walked 1 in one of the other outings.
  • 1 of Wainwright’s was also 7 innings (giving up 1 run)
  • Two of Marquez’ CG’s were less than 9 innings.

So at this point, Fried is going toe-to-toe with the best outings of anyone in baseball, being the only pitcher with a pair of 9-inning shutouts while walking none in the process.

That could be important again next week:  he’s currently scheduled as the anchor pitcher in the 3-game series vs. Philadelphia opposite Kyle Gibson next Thursday.

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The Braves do have their pitching lined up well for Philly:  Anderson, Morton, and Fried.  Go get ’em, boys… we might need those games.