Braves feed off playoff-type energy to edge Dodgers

Fried's stellar start, Ozuna's go-ahead blast and Jansen's 20th save dispatch Dodgers

June 26th, 2022

ATLANTA -- The weather certainly didn’t feel like October. But as the Braves claimed a 5-3 win over the Dodgers on Saturday night at Truist Park, the atmosphere resembled what these teams experienced when they competed against each other in the past two National League Championship Series. 

“These are fun games to be part of,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “They’re gut-wrenching, but they’re fun because there is a lot of emotion and energy out there.”

Marcell Ozuna’s two-run home run in the eighth energized a sold-out crowd and gave the Braves a lead they wouldn’t relinquish on the way to improving to 19-4 in June. The go-ahead shot rewarded another impressive effort from Max Fried, who again showed why he has become one of baseball’s top starters.

“He threw the ball extremely well,” Snitker said. “Boy, he emptied the tank and left it all out there.”

Here’s a look at the biggest moments created by Fried and the Braves in this latest victory.

Timely power

When Eddie Rosario began his Minor League rehab assignment on Saturday, some Braves fans used social media to ask if Ozuna might soon be the odd man out. Well, the Braves aren’t going to comfortably eat the more than $40 million owed to the outfielder, and there’s not much trade value for a guy who entered this game having hit .221 with a .685 OPS going back to the start of 2020.

So, the team can only hope Ozuna builds on the big two-run homer he hit off Brusdar Graterol in the eighth. The veteran designated hitter has hit 14 homers, but he has just a .696 OPS.

“He’s gotten some big hits lately,” Snitker said. “He’s still fighting to get to where he wants to be. But in between, he has gotten some clutch hits for us.”

Cy Young candidate

Before the game, Snitker said opposing teams are respecting Fried much like they do the game’s other great starting pitchers. After the left-hander kept the Dodgers scoreless through six innings and nearly escaped unscathed in a two-run seventh, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts praised Fried.

“I think he’s the best left-hander in the game,” Roberts said. “Just where he’s at right now, nothing to take away from our guys, but as far as his ability to go three times through the lineup, the pitch mix. It’s electric stuff. I think his 105th pitch was 98 [mph]. He pitches to all quadrants. And he always seems to bring out his best against us.”

Fried’s relentless competitive spirit was on display after the Dodgers put runners on the corners with none out in the seventh. Snitker walked to the mound, recognized his hurler was mentally strong and then watched him record back-to-back strikeouts. He was a pitch away from avoiding damage. But after nearly homering with a long fly that went just right of the right-field foul pole, Cody Bellinger notched a two-out single. Will Smith allowed an inherited runner to score and the Dodgers tied the game when their Will Smith opened the eighth with a homer off A.J. Minter.

“Sometimes you go up against guys that have good battles,” Fried said. “You just have to tip your cap to Bellinger.”

Fried was charged with two runs and six hits over 6 2/3 innings. He is 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA in the seven starts he has made following a Braves loss this year.

Rising up

The Braves’ Will Smith minimized damage in the seventh when he ended the inning by striking out former teammate Freddie Freeman with the bases loaded. Much of this weekend’s focus has been Freeman’s return to Atlanta for the first time since signing with the Dodgers in March.

But, just as it’s odd for Freeman to be playing against an organization he had been a part of since 2007, it’s also strange for Kenley Jansen to be competing against the Dodgers, who before this year had been his only employer going all the way back to 2005, when he was a 17-year-old catcher.

With that being said, Jansen has now worked two perfect innings against his former team. One was completed in April at Dodger Stadium. And the other was constructed on Saturday, when he notched his 20th save with three consecutive strikeouts of Bellinger, Max Muncy and Trea Turner.

“That was some electric stuff,” Fried said.”You could tell he was feeding from the energy too. That was impressive.”