'Dangerous' Albies backs Fried's strong start 

August 15th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- has never had a chance to show whether he can pitch like . But Fried has taken advantage of every opportunity to show he can hit like Albies.

Well, maybe not with the same kind of authority.

But while getting some support from Albies’ two latest extra-base hits in a 12-2 win over the Nationals on Saturday afternoon at Nationals Park, Fried again provided multidimensional value to the Braves, who have now won nine of their past 11 games.

“[Fried] was really good tonight,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s like I’ve always been saying, ‘He helps himself in so many ways to win games.’”

Fried surrendered two runs -- one earned -- over six innings and fueled a two-run third inning with a one-out single off Patrick Corbin. Albies tripled in the third and homered in a fourth straight game during the fifth. As for Dansby Swanson, he homered twice and drove in six runs for the Braves, who remain in a first-place tie with the Phillies in the National League East.

A little more than a month after losing Ronald Acuña Jr. to a season-ending knee injury, it’s remarkable the Braves sit atop the division standings. But courtesy of some key post All-Star break Deadline trades, they again have a formidable lineup that has Albies serving as its powerful catalyst.

“He’s something else,” Snitker said. “He’s just so dangerous right-handed also.”

Though he might not be physically imposing, Albies showed his great strength when he produced a 111.4 mph exit velocity with his two-run shot off Corbin. This was the hardest-hit homer of the switch-hitting second baseman’s career, besting the 108.3 mph velo he generated on a June 18 homer against the Cardinals.

Albies leads the Majors with 59 extra-base hits. He has 22 homers, six triples and 31 doubles. This marks the third time in his career that he has tallied 20 homers, five triples and 30 doubles. The only Braves player to ever have four such seasons was Hank Aaron.

Having homered each of the past four days, Albies now has a chance to match the franchise record of homering in five straight games. It’s been done nine different times, but the only Atlanta players to homer in five straight games since 2000 are Chipper Jones (2004), Brian McCann (2006) and Acuña (2018).

“He’s obviously extremely talented on both sides of the ball,” Fried said. “He’s kind of hit his whole professional career from the Minors on up. I just know every time he steps in the box, he’s looking to do damage.”

When Albies tripled over Victor Robles’ head in the third, Fried showed his great athleticism by easily scoring from first base. His sprint speed, per Statcast, was 29.3 feet per second. Elite speed is 30.0 ft./sec.

“That’s telling you how athletic he is,” Albies said. “When I got to the dugout, he was like, ‘As soon as I saw that ball bounce, all I said was, I want this RBI to be for Ozzie.’”

Of course, Fried’s athleticism can also be seen via the .342 (13-for-38) batting average he has produced this season. The only Major League pitcher who has produced a better average with at least 30 at-bats is the Mets’ Jacob deGrom (.364).

If Fried continues to swing the bat well over the remainder of the season, he could find a place in the franchise’s record book. Going back to when the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, the best batting average by one of the club’s pitchers with at least 40 at-bats was the .296 mark Rick Mahler produced in 1984.

While the ability to capably handle the bat enhances Fried’s value, he has also continued to impress on the mound. The lefty has posted a 1.95 ERA over six starts going back to the All-Star break. He has allowed fewer than two earned runs in four of those six outings.

“I really enjoy hitting and obviously, I know it can really help our club,” Fried said. “I definitely take it serious and I want to be able to put together good at-bats. Anything I’m doing that can help the team win, whether that’s at the plate or on the mound, I’m definitely going to give it everything I’ve got.”

While Snitker has said he believes Fried could have been a center fielder, he’s not sure Albies would have succeeded as a pitcher.

“I could go out there and throw some fastballs, that’s all I could do,” said Albies with a laugh.

As for Fried, he had a reasonable response when light-heartedly asked if Albies could succeed as a big league pitcher.

“I’ve never really thought about that,” Fried said. “I just know he’s a little too valuable at second base for us right now to put on the mound.”