Braves' lights-out 'pen picks up Fried (4 IP)

Starter throws 70 pitches, could pitch on short rest: 'I’ll be ready'

October 7th, 2020

expected more from himself in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, but even aces have afternoons like his on Tuesday afternoon.

Fried allowed four runs in four innings in the Braves’ 9-5 victory over the Marlins at Minute Maid Park. He said afterward that whenever he leaves a game with a bad taste in his mouth, he cannot wait to get back on the mound. So perhaps Fried sees the silver lining: He threw only 70 pitches, creating the possibility that he could pitch again this series, possibly Game 5 (if necessary) on Saturday on short rest.

“This is the playoffs,” Fried said. “This is what we play for all year. I’m going to do whatever I can to help promote recovery. Obviously, I don’t know too much, but I’ll just be ready for whenever they tell me to take the ball next.”

Ian Anderson will start Game 2 on Wednesday, and Kyle Wright will take the mound in Game 3 on Thursday. The Braves are expected to lean heavily on their bullpen in if the series goes beyond three games. Having Fried in the mix would be big.

“Having him available for Game 5 is a huge benefit for us,” Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “He’s a disgusting pitcher who has four elite pitches. He’s got an elite mindset as well. He does his homework on all their hitters. Today was just one of those days where he didn’t have his fastball command. It happens throughout the year. But having him on the mound in Game 5, if necessary, I wouldn’t want anyone else out there.”

Fried lacked fastball command Tuesday, and Miami’s batters squared up the baseball as a result. Miguel Rojas hit a solo home run in the second inning, then Fried allowed three runs on four hits in the fourth. The Marlins’ average exit velocity off Fried was 89.8 mph, according to Statcast. Opponents hit the ball harder against Fried in only one other start this season, vs. the Red Sox on Aug. 31 (92.1 mph). Otherwise, Fried generated some of the weakest contact in baseball in the season. His 83.4 mph average exit velocity against ranked fifth out of 368 qualified pitchers.

“I just wasn’t as sharp as I normally would like to be, especially in a game of this magnitude,” Fried said. “Instead of balls that, when you miss, they’re kind of out of the strike zone, I was leaving them over the plate. They were making good swings and doing some damage on them.”

But the Braves’ elite bullpen bailed him out. Darren O’Day threw nine pitches in a scoreless fifth, Tyler Matzek threw 11 pitches in a scoreless sixth and Will Smith threw eight pitches in a scoreless seventh. Chris Martin ran into some trouble in the eighth, but Mark Melancon threw seven pitches in a scoreless ninth.

“It's like I told [Max] when I took him out,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I said, ‘You know what? This thing isn't getting any better, and we’ve got a great run for Darren O'Day right now.’ You know, and bring in [Matzek], use our bullpen. They've been so effective and continued to do so today. They allowed us to have a chance to win that game.”

Asked if he envisions a scenario in which Fried could pitch again this series, Snitker said, “I don’t know. I’m gonna savor today.”

He should. Fried should, too. The Braves won, even without him at his best.

“Whenever they ask me to take the ball, I’ll be ready,” Fried said.