Fried finds form in return, stops Atlanta's skid with gem

Lefty, club look to manage blister after it flares up again in 6th and final frame

September 22nd, 2023

WASHINGTON -- couldn’t control the virus that weakened him going into last year’s postseason. He is confident he can manage the blister issue that has developed as he and his Braves teammates are preparing for the playoffs.

“We’re going to do everything in our power,” Fried said. “At the end of the day, it’s about getting outs and performing in the playoffs. Whatever we need to do to set us up for that, that’s my goal.”

Fried was given a couple extra days to deal with the blister that developed last week. The delayed start proved to be smooth until he started to feel some irritation during the last of the six strong innings he completed in the Braves’ 10-3 win over the Nationals on Thursday night at Nationals Park.

“The outing felt great,” Fried said. “Towards the end, my finger just filled up with a little bit of fluid. We drained it and we’ll take it day to day.”

  • Games remaining (9): at WSH (3), vs. CHC (3), vs. WSH (3)
  • Standings update: The Braves (98-55) have clinched a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the National League Division Series. They are the top NL division leader, meaning they would face the winner of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 Wild Card in a five-game NL Division Series starting on Oct. 7.

There was plenty for the Braves to feel good about as they won for just the second time in their past seven games. They have a three-game lead over the Orioles in the battle for MLB’s best record and home-field advantage through the World Series. They are also 3 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers in the battle for the NL’s best record and home-field advantage through the NL Championship Series.

Ozzie Albies secured his second 100-RBI season during his ninth career four-hit game while driving in four runs, highlighted by his 32nd home run. Albies joins Mark Teixeira, Chipper Jones, Lance Berkman, Tony Clark and Eddie Murray as the only switch-hitters to have two 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons at age 26 or younger.

Matt Olson also increased his MLB-leading home run total to 53. But the most encouraging development seemed to be Fried scattering three hits and allowing just one run over six innings.

This was his first start since a blister developed on his left index finger during the final inning of his Sept. 12 start in Philadelphia. It was never viewed as a significant issue. But because he has had problems with blisters throughout his career, the Braves took the cautious route by pushing his start back a few days. 

“It’s something that obviously happens often,” Fried said. “It’s just more about managing and dealing with it. It’s more of a case by case. But I should be good to go. Playoffs are what’s most important. So, whatever is going to get us to that is what we’re going to do.” 

Fried could potentially make two more starts before the NL Division Series. But with the blister building again at the end of this latest outing, the Braves will need to decide exactly when they want him to pitch again. The regular season ends six days before Game 1 of the NLDS.

So regardless of whether Spencer Strider or Fried serves as the Game 1 starter, the Braves have some flexibility with how they align their rotation during the regular season’s final weekend. But this blister does create reason to wonder if the Braves lefty would be available to make two starts during the best-of-five series.

With an off-day between Games 1 and 2, the starters for those games could both make a second start in the series with regular rest.

The Braves had home-field advantage during last year’s NLDS matchup against the Phillies. But they were disadvantaged by the fact Fried entered his Game 1 start having lost 15 pounds because of a virus he acquired a little more than a week earlier.

This year, Fried believes he is dealing with something he can control. 

“We’re very fortunate to have a lot of really high-tech equipment and ointments -- stuff like that,” he said. “I’m just a good soldier. Whatever they tell me to do, I’ve got to do it.”