Fried's 13-K gem sets tone as Braves aim to turn tide in June

Left-hander sets career high in strikeouts as Atlanta takes series opener in Boston

June 5th, 2024

BOSTON -- For the past two seasons, the month of June has been one to remember for the Braves. In 2022, they went on a 14-game win streak to open June after ending May with a rare team meeting. Atlanta followed suit the next year with 61 homers in June, the most ever recorded by a National League team in any month.

A red-hot month would be particularly welcome for the Braves this year after the club closed May with news of Ronald Acuña Jr.’s season-ending injury and an uncharacteristic team-wide offensive slump.

Three games into the calendar flip, Atlanta’s June fortune seems to be on trend.

struck out a career-high 13 batters across his seven innings and Ozzie Albies led the offense in the Braves’ 8-3 win over the Red Sox in Tuesday night’s series opener at Fenway Park.

“They’re pros,” manager Brian Snitker said. “They understand it’s a long season. They get this whole process that we go through. And it’s not about one start, one stretch or anything. It’s just such a long season. And I think they don’t try to worry about having a season in a week or so. And they understand that there’s going to be rough spots in it, whether it’s beginning, middle or end.”

Despite putting up nine runs on June 1, Atlanta dropped its first game of the month to Oakland. The club followed up that loss with a win in Sunday’s finale to salvage the series before arriving in Boston for a two-game set.

The Braves scored their first two runs on Tuesday with the help of an error by Red Sox first baseman Dominic Smith in the second inning. Sean Murphy added a run with an RBI single in the fifth before Albies gave Fried a big cushion with a three-run homer off Kutter Crawford in the sixth. The homer -- which traveled a Statcast-projected 401 feet -- marked Albies’ first since May 10.

“The spot was [big], to take the lead and help the team win,” Albies said. “That’s more important than anything, but it felt great.”

Fried struck out the side to open the game, retiring his first seven batters before surrendering his first homer since May 5 to Smith. Boston tacked on another two runs off Fried in the fourth before the left-hander finished his outing with three scoreless frames. Fried’s 13 strikeouts are tied for the fifth-most by a Braves pitcher in a single start, with Warren Spahn (18 in 1952) atop the list.

“He was really good,” Snitker said. “That curveball was really, really good tonight. Really good. Two of the runs he gave up were kind of unfortunate, with the catcher’s interference to load the bases [in the fourth inning]. But he did a good job pitching through all that and limiting damage, and it was a good, nice solid outing.”

The curveball was really good, and so was the entire pitch mix. Along with his 13 strikeouts, Fried notched career-highs in whiffs (21) and called strikes plus whiffs (41). He threw six of his pitches at least 10 times, with five -- his curveball, sinker, cutter, slider and four-seam -- notching a called-strike-whiff rate above 30 percent.

It was a departure from how things played out in Fried’s last outing, in which he induced a career-high four double plays over eight scoreless innings against the Nationals on May 28.

“I think it was just more of the location on a lot of them,” Fried said. “Just happened to be one of those nights where I was getting swings and misses rather than weak contact. You just kind of take what the game gives you and just try to embrace a little bit more of a swing-and-miss game.”

As the Braves manage a barrage of injuries, Fried has given the club some consistency. Tuesday’s outing marked his seventh quality start this season and his fourth in his past five appearances. After a rocky two games to open the season, Fried has bounced back with a 1.83 ERA over his past 10 starts.

“He’s a good one,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He goes deep into the game. He’s got good stuff. He used his breaking ball well today to work ahead. … He's one of the best. He does that every five days.”