Hanging curveballs, bad luck on a shift and soft contact don’t show up in the box score, though.
Fried’s effort, even in defeat, could mean a win later in the series, starting as early as Game 3 on Friday at Truist Park. With the loss of starter Charlie Morton to injury and the club’s overworked bullpen as the backdrop, the Braves needed length from Fried heading into the off-day on Thursday. That’s exactly what they received.
“The bullpen is going to play a big part, obviously, in what we've got going on because we lost a huge starter,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “So we're going to have probably two games [Game 4 and Game 5] in a row that we're going to pitch 18 innings out of that bullpen.”
Fried’s first two innings were not pretty, but with the best-of-seven Series tied, 1-1, it’s difficult to blame the Braves for feeling like they not only neutralized Houston’s home-field advantage but gained an advantage of their own. Ian Anderson is scheduled to start Game 3 in front of the hometown crowd with a mostly fresh bullpen intact.
“Braves Country is real,” Snitker said. “That's why I think it was so important to split here. I mean, realistically, you want to win two, but if you can split and get out of here and go home, where we've been really good, that's a positive.”
Fried’s undoing happened quickly.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve led off the bottom of the first inning with a double that clocked in with an 83.8 mph exit velocity, per Statcast. He advanced to third on a fly ball by Michael Brantley and scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Bregman to give Houston a 1-0 lead.
In the eventful second, Kyle Tucker hit a one-out single and the next batter, Yuli Gurriel, beat the shift with a ground ball that came off his bat at 84.2 mph to change the game. Jose Siri drove home Tucker with a single for Houston’s second run. He followed Gurriel to the plate on a base hit by Martín Maldonado and a throwing error by left fielder Eddie Rosario to put the Astros up, 4-1. The fourth run of the inning came courtesy of Brantley’s ground single to right field.
“I'm having a hard time convincing myself that [Fried] struggled,” Snitker said. “The first inning, they did some really good hitting. The second inning, when they scored, it was kind of a weird inning. It wasn't like he was getting banged around. Balls that found holes, checked swings, and we threw a ball away. It was just a weird inning.”
Fried threw 43 pitches during those first two innings and finished with 86 pitches in the outing. Yes, he understands that his outing helped set his club up for success later in the week, but he’s just not ready to look on the bright side yet. That’s not how he is wired.
“I'm not happy about it,” Fried said. “You have got to do everything you can to keep the crooked number off the scoreboard. And at the end of the day, they put up four runs in that inning. [I] need to do better next time, just making pitches and getting out of it.”
Fried rebounded to sit down 10 batters in a row, retiring the side in order in the third, fourth and fifth innings. He walked Yordan Alvarez on six pitches to start the sixth and gave up a single to Carlos Correa to mark the end of his night. Dylan Lee, Jesse Chavez, Drew Smyly and Kyle Wright followed him.
“For me, at the end of the day, it's kind of what I've said here: If I'm leaving the game and we're winning, I did my job,” Fried said. “Today, I didn't do that.”