Fried battles through Game 2 start, but blister not a factor

October 11th, 2023

ATLANTA -- Max Fried will forever be remembered for the determined scoreless effort he provided in the decisive Game 6 of the 2021 World Series. But his postseason starts after that outing have left him anxiously hoping to get another chance.

“I would love to have another opportunity,” Fried said. “Hopefully, we take the next two and move on to the next round. But I'm looking forward to the next time I get back out there.”

Fried’s chances of pitching again this postseason increased as the Braves claimed a 5-4 comeback win over the Phillies in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Monday night at Truist Park.

When Fried exited the game after four ineffective innings, there was reason to wonder if it would be his last of the year. The good news is it doesn't appear his recent blister will prevent him from making another start in this postseason.

“I just wasn’t sharp, but physically, I was good,” Fried said.

Fried was bothered by a blister during the fifth inning of his Sept. 12 start in Philadelphia and again during the sixth inning of his Sept. 21 start in Washington. He spent a couple of weeks throwing with tape or a bandage on his finger. Fried's only simulated-game action over the past two-plus weeks came on Oct. 3, when he pitched in an intrasquad game.

“His fingers are fine,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I think with Max, the biggest thing is he hasn't pitched in 18 days. So I think that's more than anything. But he felt good, and I think it was just Max is a feel guy, and he hadn't been out there other than one day last week.”

Fried’s curveball was effective through the first few batters he faced, but it became apparent he didn’t have much else during his 30-pitch first inning. He surrendered four hits but only one run in that opening frame. The 29-year-old's inability to throw a slider hurt him in the third, when J.T. Realmuto hit a two-run homer.  

“I didn’t have any pitch but my curveball,” Fried said. “It was just one of those days where you’ve just got to grind through it. I fell behind a lot. I had a lot of 2-0 and 3-0 counts. That isn’t like me. When you’re falling behind a lot, teams are going to be a lot more dangerous.” 

How Fried feels over the next few days might determine if he would be ready to start a potential Game 5 of the NLDS on regular rest on Saturday in Atlanta. If the Braves were to take two straight in Philadelphia, the lefty would be a candidate to start either Game 1 (Oct. 16) or Game 2 (Oct. 17) of the NL Championship Series.

Fried hopes to soon make a playoff start without having to worry about the lingering effects of an ailment. When he allowed six runs (four earned) on eight hits and one walk in 3 1/3 innings in Game 1 of the 2022 NLDS against the Phillies, he was 15 pounds lighter than he’d been when he had contracted a virus a little less than a week earlier. 

“It’s playoff baseball. You’ve just got to perform,” Fried said. “Everyone is battling something from pitching through the year or just not as sharp as they want to be at the end of the day.”