Though Max Fried’s competitive spirit led him to lobby to remain in the first game of Wednesday afternoon’s doubleheader at Nationals Park, he didn’t necessarily put up a strong fight after his right calf was struck with a second-inning comebacker.
Fortunately for the Braves, their offense and bullpen picked up the slack and led the club to its first victory of the season, a 7-6 win over the Nats at Nationals Park. Now, the hope is Fried will be ready to make his next scheduled start on Monday against the Marlins.
“As of right now, I don’t plan on missing any time,” Fried said. “I’ll just get some treatment and be ready for the next one.”
Fried was already experiencing a frustration-filled start before a Juan Soto comebacker hit his calf and bounced toward third baseman Austin Riley, who tagged an unfortunate Trea Turner. The Braves' lefty remained in the game to complete the inning, but he didn’t return to pitch the third.
“I know it was bothering him,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “I knew something like that was going to stiffen up when he sits. I told him I’m not going to risk having him try to pitch around something like that. I think he’ll be fine."
Fried allowed five earned runs and eight hits over just two innings. Turner’s two-run homer highlighted the four-run first the Nats produced against Fried, who didn’t allow more than five hits in any of his 11 starts last season.
“He just wasn’t real sharp again,” Snitker said, “but he’s not getting any luck with the balls they put in play.”
After Soto reached via fielder’s choice, Ryan Zimmerman and Starlin Castro recorded consecutive singles. Fried ended his day by inducing a Hernán Pérez comebacker.
Turner’s home run came against a well-placed inside fastball, and the hits Zimmerman and Castro recorded in the first inning had an exit velocity below 72 mph.
Fried also experienced some bad luck during Thursday’s Opening Day start in Philadelphia. The one ball he put in play -- a fifth-inning groundout -- had a higher exit velocity (105.8 mph) than any of the balls put in play against him. The Phillies produced an 83.2 mph average exit velocity against Fried, who ranked first among all MLB pitchers last year with a 23.8 hard-hit percentage.
“My stuff is good, and it feels like ball is coming out really well,” Fried said. “I’m getting some weak contact. The ball is just not finding where guys are right now. That's baseball. It happens.”