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Fried puts freeze on Rox in 2nd straight gem

Acuna, Swanson homer as Braves win 3rd straight
@MannyOnMLB
April 10, 2019

DENVER -- Every start Max Fried makes is an audition to stay in a Braves’ starting rotation that has enviable depth, with several other young hurlers waiting in the wings should Atlanta choose to shuffle its group behind Mike Foltynewicz, Julio Teheran and Kevin Gausman throughout the season. Fried was

DENVER -- Every start Max Fried makes is an audition to stay in a Braves’ starting rotation that has enviable depth, with several other young hurlers waiting in the wings should Atlanta choose to shuffle its group behind Mike Foltynewicz, Julio Teheran and Kevin Gausman throughout the season.

Fried was perfect for 5 2/3 innings against the Cubs last Thursday, eventually leaving the game having given up one hit over six frames. And in Tuesday’s 7-1 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field, the young left-hander continued to make a strong case for himself, tossing six strong innings in the cavernous hitter’s park while limiting Colorado to one unearned run on five hits, walking one and striking out four.

Fried got all the backing he needed from Atlanta’s offense, and then some, as Ronald Acuna Jr. homered for the second straight night in the second, and Dansby Swanson delivered the big blow of the game with a three-run shot in the fourth.

Fried has credited a change in his mentality after being sent to the bullpen late last season for his tremendous start to the 2019 campaign. He began being more aggressive, going right at hitters with his mid-90s fastball and biting curveball.

Though he let it lapse for a bit in the middle of his start in Colorado, Fried reclaimed that approach with the help of a curveball that didn’t appear to be affected by the altitude that has made so many breaking pitches go flat at Coors Field over the years.

“In the bullpen [prior to the game], I noticed all of my pitches were breaking about the same as they normally did,” Fried said. “So I just wanted to attack them, get ahead, throw some curveballs, some sliders, some changeups, and keep them off balance.”

Of the 90 pitches Fried threw, 43 (37 percent) were curveballs in a ballpark where hanging breaking pitches are prevalent, usually leading to major damage. His best curve of the night came on a 1-2 count to Raimel Tapia in the fifth inning, with a man on first and slugger Nolan Arenado on deck. Allowing Tapia to reach would have brought Arenado to the plate in a situation in which one swing could cut the Braves’ lead to 5-4.

Fried unleashed a devastating curve that started middle-in at the waist and ended up at Tapia’s feet after a swinging strike three to end the frame, stranding the last baserunner the Rockies would have against Fried.

“I felt like I was searching, and a little out of rhythm [in the fourth inning],” Fried said. “But I had a talk in the dugout with Kraney [pitching coach Rick Kranitz], and he just said, ‘Go out there and execute pitches. Don’t think about anything.’”

Arenado’s presence in the on-deck circle, while in Fried’s situational consciousness, was nowhere near the forefront of his mind during the Tapia at-bat. The result was that Arenado didn’t come to the plate that inning at all. Nothing to worry about.

When the Rockies made contact, it was often soft contact. Of the 16 balls Colorado hitters put in play against Fried, only three were classified as hard-hit by Statcast (exit velocity of 95 mph or greater) -- a Tony Wolters double in the third (101.0 mph), an Arenado single in the fourth (105.1 mph) and a Trevor Story groundout in the sixth (103.1 mph).

With a frame and pitching motion often compared to a young Cole Hamels, Fried is beginning to put together the type of consistency that has eluded him over the years due to various injuries, including Tommy John surgery and blister issues.

Despite the past setbacks, Fried is proving he belongs in a crowded field of starting pitching options at manager Brian Snitker’s disposal.

“He’s doing everything you want to see out of a young guy, especially in this environment,” said catcher Tyler Flowers. “Being young, trying to solidify yourself as a starter, I think he did a great job blocking that out and executing pitches.”

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.