ATLANTA -- Though his voice and his performance indicated he was still weakened by the flu bug that bothered him into last week, Max Fried refused to make any excuses after enduring an ugly start in a 7-6 loss to the Phillies in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday afternoon at Truist Park.
Fried, who had exited his final regular-season start against the Mets on Sept. 30 after five innings due to illness, didn’t seem to be quite himself in the Braves’ first postseason game.
In his first playoff appearance since winning Game 6 of last year's World Series, Fried tossed 3 1/3 innings, allowing six runs (four earned) on eight hits and one walk while fanning two batters. It marked Fried's shortest start since April 7, 2021, when he pitched just two innings against the Nationals, and the shortest of his 10 career postseason starts.
“It's just one of those days, he didn't have his best stuff,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “He tried to go out there and battle and stay out there as long as he could and keep us in the game. But, unfortunately, it didn't go the way we wanted.”
It might have been different had Fried gotten out of the first inning unscathed. But after getting two outs on three pitches, he allowed four consecutive singles that led to two Phillies runs.
Those were the first first-inning runs the lefty had allowed since May 29, a span of 20 starts. His 0.90 ERA in the opening frame this year was third lowest in the Majors (minimum 20 frames).
“I’m not going to make any excuses,” said Fried, who was pitching on 11 days’ rest. “I took the ball today and put us in a big hole right away. Right off the bat. [The Phillies] came out swinging and had a really good approach, and frankly, I just didn’t do my job today.
“The guys were counting on me to go out there and have a good start and keep it a close game, and I just let it get out of [hand] too quick.”
Fried’s throwing error set up a two-run third for Philadelphia. He was then chased from the game after allowing a one-out double in the fourth. Fried, who hadn’t allowed four earned runs in a game since June 14, has now allowed three or more runs in six of 18 career postseason appearances, earning a 2-4 record.
“I wondered how far [Fried] was going to go, but it seemed like every single [inning was] stressful,” said Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins. “That's what happens when you continue to get guys on base. I thought we were relentless in the box, really one through nine. Not everybody got results, but we put pressure on him all day, and I think that’s why we got him out of the game early.”
Also noticeable was a dip in velocity for Fried. The 28-year-old's 92.7 mph average for his four-seamer was lower than in any of his 30 regular-season starts, including his last. All of Fried's pitches were down at least one mile per hour, with his changeup taking the most drastic drop, going from his season average of 86.5 mph to 84.5 mph.
“I asked him after the fourth, when he came off,” manager Brian Snitker said about how Fried was feeling. “He went down and he was mad and everything. I just wanted to make sure he was OK physically. And he just wasn't firing today.”
If this series extends to a Game 5 on Sunday in Atlanta, Fried would be in line to make that start.
“Hopefully,” Fried said, “I’ll be able to get another opportunity to go out there and redeem myself.”