Fried silences Dodgers in return to Cy Young form

Ronald Acuña Jr. hits one of three Braves homers in another statement win

September 2nd, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- The Braves have the game’s most powerful lineup, and it looks like they might also enter the postseason with a Cy Young-caliber pitcher who has a fresh arm.  

picked the right time to get back to being himself after a three-month layoff. The lefty silenced one of the game’s top lineups and helped the Braves make another statement with a 6-3 win over the Dodgers on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.  

“This was big,” Fried said. “I definitely feel like I've been going through the motions at times, and I haven’t really been as sharp and focused on making pitches and winning ballgames the way I was today. It was a jolt, and I’m going to try to use this as a springboard.”

The first two games of this four-game series have gone auspiciously for the Braves, who have extended their lead to six games over the Dodgers in the battle for the National League’s best record. They held on to win Thursday’s series opener and dominated Friday’s game to the point MVP candidates Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman were pulled in the eighth inning.

This is after Fried had scattered three hits over seven scoreless innings. Betts and Freeman combined to go 1-for-6 against the Braves lefty, with the one hit being a single Freeman slapped to the left side of the infield with third baseman Austin Riley shifted toward second base.

“That's a really good ballclub over there,” Fried said. “They've been really good for a long time. They don't take very many pitches or very many games off. So, you kind of have to bring your A game. We just know that we're a really good team. We really believe in ourselves.”

It’s certainly easy to be confident when you’ve built MLB’s top record with a lineup that includes Ronald Acuña Jr., who created the 30-60 club on Thursday and then homered again on Friday to strengthen his bid for what would be just the fifth 40-homer, 40-steal season in AL/NL history. Marcell Ozuna also homered to back Fried and bolster his own attempt to also join Matt Olson, who has already surpassed the 40-homer mark.

Even Travis d’Arnaud got into the act, with his second inning solo homer off Julio Urías. The veteran catcher became the 10th Braves player to tally a double-digit homer total this year. This is the first time in franchise history more than nine players have reached this total.

Acuña has strengthened his NL MVP bid by homering within a multi-hit performance during both of the series’ first two games. But this weekend’s most significant development has come from Fried, who just needed time to find a groove after missing three months with a left forearm strain that sidelined him in early May. 

“He looked like himself,” d’Arnaud said. “I think the biggest thing for me was his thoughts were correct, versus what I saw in his last few starts. I think he was very comfortable today. I think he’s right where he needs to be.”

Fried was in total control against an offense that averaged 6.1 runs per game in August. He retired each of the first eight batters faced and didn’t allow a Dodger to reach second base until there were two outs in the seventh. 

“I don’t have a lot of innings on my arm, which is really nice, but it’s really about just fine tuning and sharpening and making sure I’m the same guy that I’ve been in the past,” Fried said. “I feel like today was a good step toward that.”

Fried has thrown 60 ⅔ innings this year and just 34 ⅔ innings since returning from the injured list in early August. He spent the past few weeks attempting to re-acquaint himself with the flow of the game. He endured one rough inning in Pittsburgh and then battled through some inconsistencies while generating decent results in each of his next three outings.  

But it wasn’t until Friday that he was able to walk away satisfied with how he felt and performed.  Now, he can enter the final stretch and prepare for the postseason without any concerns about fatigue.

“That’s big,” d’Arnaud said. “To have a bonafide ace and a [2021] Game 6 World Series winner, that's huge for any team.”