The 2023 Atlanta Braves offense is something special. They proved this on Monday night when they rallied after going hitless for the first five innings to overcome a four-run deficit. However, to win baseball games in October, it takes some stellar pitching performances as well.
Atlanta is already short-staffed in their starting rotation with Charlie Morton and Kyle Wright sidelined with injuries. Max Fried has just returned from an injured list stint himself with a blister on his pitching hand.
Fried has made some gutsy performances in his postseason career, like the 2021 World Series clincher. In his first outing of the 2023 playoffs, Fried was not exactly sharp.
He only made it through four innings after allowing three earned runs and walking four batters on 95 total pitches. Fried's command was non-existent, hence the high pitch count and high number of walks. He also only struck out three batters with the Phillies getting good swings off Max even on their outs.
During his live game interview, Brian Snitker blamed the long layoff between the regular season and the start of the postseason as the reason behind Fried's struggles. One can only assume that his blister is also still not 100%.
The Braves ramped up their preparation for the NLDS by participating in intrasquad games that were open to the public. Max Fried threw off the mound against live batters during this time. It was noted during this time that Fried threw pitches with and without a bandage to see what was more comfortable and to ensure the blister did not worsen.
No, intrasquad scrimmages are not remotely close to a playoff game. However, pitching mechanics are the same. The layoff before the NLDS could have played a factor in Fried's performance on Monday but there seems to be more to it.
The bad news is that Max Fried may not reach 100% health before the end of the playoffs. The good news is that Fried at 80% is better than most at 100%. Max Fried is a gamer and will continue to do whatever it takes for the Braves to win, even if that means pitching with a blister on his left hand.