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Fried states case in dominant win vs. Cardinals

Special to MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Braves left-hander Max Fried was called up for the fourth time in his young career before Saturday's game against the Cardinals. Each of those stints came out of short-term need.

But Fried made a compelling case for an extended stay this time, leading the Braves to an 11-4 rout of the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Atlanta (47-34) won for the fourth time in six games, and is eyeing a series sweep when the teams meet again on Sunday.

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ST. LOUIS -- Braves left-hander Max Fried was called up for the fourth time in his young career before Saturday's game against the Cardinals. Each of those stints came out of short-term need.

But Fried made a compelling case for an extended stay this time, leading the Braves to an 11-4 rout of the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Atlanta (47-34) won for the fourth time in six games, and is eyeing a series sweep when the teams meet again on Sunday.

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Video: ATL@STL: Balanced effort leads Braves past Cardinals

"His command of the strike zone, just his fastball command, his stuff was really good," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He was throwing a lot of strikes, and that was probably the biggest thing. It was probably as good as I've seen him go up here."

Fried (1-2) started in place of Brandon McCarthy, who is on the disabled list with right hamstring inflammation. The 24-year-old earned his second career win by shutting out St. Louis over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out a career-high 11 batters, while allowing four hits and three walks.

"My curveball was definitely on tonight. I was able to throw it for strikes, put it in the dirt when I wanted to," Fried said. "But the biggest thing for me was getting the fastball over. It felt like I was able to get strike one pretty good. That was my main goal, to get ahead and stay ahead."

Fried's performance also gave a taxed bullpen some relief.

"He had a lot of pitches, and he was in a good rhythm, a good groove," Snitker said. "It was nice right now to give everybody a break in the bullpen. It was kind of what you hope those guys will do when they go out: Get you into the seventh and eighth inning."

Fried also collected his first Major League hit with a single in the fifth, igniting a six-run rally that blew the game open.

Video: ATL@STL: Fried singles to left for 1st career hit

"It wasn't the hardest-hit ball and it was just inside the line, but I guess it's all the same in the box score," Fried said. "I was just happy to get on base and try to get something going."

Fried scored on an Ozzie Albies ground-rule double and Nick Markakis pushed the lead to 7-0 with his fourth career grand slam.

Grand slams mean 40% off pizza

Video: ATL@STL: Markakis hits grand slam in 6-run 5th inning

"You've got to give all the credit to Max," Markakis said. "He came out and pitched one of the better games that I've seen. For him, two runs early on was enough for him. It was nice to get some runs and give him a nice cushion there."

The Braves tacked on another run in the fifth on a Dansby Swanson single. Atlanta sent 11 batters to the plate in the fifth, the first time an opposing team has sent more than nine batters to the plate in one inning at Busch Stadium this season.

Cardinals starter Luke Weaver allowed a season-high eight runs in 4 2/3 innings. Weaver (4-7) fell to 0-4 with a 5.31 ERA in eight starts at home this season.

Fried's effort lowered the Braves' starters to a National League-low 3.34 ERA. Atlanta entered the game second to the Cardinals.

"We talk about a lot of things, how we're here, and for the most part it's been those guys who have kept us in games and gave us an opportunity to win them," Snitker said.

Markakis finished 2-for-4, drove in five runs and scored two runs. Ender Inciarte added a pair of hits and scored twice.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Ronald Acuna Jr. returned from the disabled list on Friday and his bat showed up on Saturday. Acuna's two-run homer to right-center field in the second inning gave the Braves a 2-0 lead. It was his first home run since May 26 after missing a month with a right ACL sprain. Acuna finished 3-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored.

Video: ATL@STL: Acuna opens scoring with 2-run home run

"He swung the bat good last night, I thought he just missed some pitches," Snitker said. "He's going to be aggressive. He's an aggressive kid. He just missed some pitches and tonight it was good."

SOUND SMART
Albies went 3-for-5 to extend his season-high hitting streak to 10 games. His career best is a 13-game stretch last September.

Video: ATL@STL: Albies bloops an RBI single into left-center

HE SAID IT
"[Fried] showed everybody he has good stuff. The breaking ball kept everybody off-balance. It's one of the better left-handed breaking balls we've seen all year. And he had enough giddy-up on his fastball, used the top of the zone to make that breaking ball effective where you get chases in the top. He did what he wanted to do." -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny

UP NEXT
Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (5-4, 2.14 ERA) will attempt to change his luck against the Cardinals in the series finale Sunday at 2:15 ET at Busch Stadium. Foltynewicz took the loss in both of his starts against St. Louis last season, allowing 13 runs in 6 2/3 innings for a 17.55 ERA. Right-hander John Gant (2-2, 3.48) will counter for the Cardinals.

Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Louis.

Atlanta Braves, Max Fried