Fried tosses 3rd career 'Maddux' ... just as his team predicted

Left-hander shuts out Marlins on 92 pitches, allowing only 3 hits and no walks

April 24th, 2024

ATLANTA -- When throws a shutout, he does so with an efficiency that conjures memories of legendary former Braves hurler Greg Maddux.

Fried halted his early-season struggles as he produced his third career ‘Maddux’ in a 5-0 win over the Marlins on Tuesday night at Truist Park. He needed just 92 pitches (69 strikes) to complete the three-hit shutout.

“A couple days ago, just talking to [catcher Travis d’Arnaud] in passing, he was like, ‘Next time you go out there, I want a complete game,’” Fried said.

So, along with hitting five homers within a span of eight at-bats over the past week, d’Arnaud has also spoken a gem into existence.

“You’ve got to pump up your guys,” d’Arnaud said. “Even today, [third-base coach Matt Tuiasosopo] said he was feeling a Maddux coming. It’s good to get your guys feeling right, especially when the season didn’t start the way they wanted.”

A ‘Maddux’ is any shutout of at least nine innings on fewer than 100 pitches. Maddux constructed one of these on 13 different occasions, including 10 times while with the Braves.

Tom Glavine, who was in the television booth for the first time this year on Tuesday, ranks second among Braves pitchers with five Madduxes. Fried now ranks third with three. But it should be noted MLB didn’t begin using pitch counts as an official stat until 1988.

Fried tossed a five-inning, rain-shortened shutout against the Mets last year. His only two previous shutouts were Madduxes. The Braves left-hander needed 98 pitches to blank the Padres on Sept. 24, 2021 and just 90 pitches to produce his first career Maddux against the Orioles on Aug. 20, 2021.

“I guess that’s kind of my thing,” Fried said. “It’s just about creating early contact and having the balls go to our defense. Guys made some really nice plays out there tonight, and it was a lot of fun out there.”

This might have been exactly what Fried needed to turn his season around. He entered this outing having produced a 7.71 ERA through his first four starts. His only previous impressive outing came on April 12, when he limited the Marlins to one run over 6 1/3 innings.

But Braves manager Brian Snitker saw some encouraging signs last week, when Fried held the Astros to three runs over five innings.

“It’s good to see him right himself and get this thing rolling,” Snitker said. “What you saw tonight was what he is capable of.”

Fried’s attack was more similar to the one that helped him earn two top-five finishes in balloting for the National League Cy Young Award over the past four seasons. The slider he introduced in 2019 helped him become one of the game’s top starters. But he began shying away from it this year.

Baseball Savant shows the slider accounted for 18.4 percent of Fried’s pitches in 2022, 10.7 percent in ‘23 (much of which he missed because of left forearm inflammation) and just 3.4 percent in the first four starts of this season. Instead, he was leaning more on the sweeper, which went from 4.6 percent usage last year to 14.4 percent this year.

d’Arnaud views the sweeper as just Fried’s soft slider. The slider registers 86-87 mph and the sweeper sits around 79-81 mph.

Fried threw 15 hard sliders and just one “soft one” in his strong effort against the Marlins.

Does Fried wish he had leaned more heavily on the slider during his first few starts?

“I’d say for sure,” Fried said. “That’s a really good pitch, and I guess I had forgotten about it a little bit. But I was able to use it to get me back into some counts, get ahead and get some nice ground balls.”

Fried faced the minimum through the first six innings and induced his second double-play grounder after a Luis Arraez single and an Austin Riley error put runners at first and second with none out in the seventh. Arraez singled again with two outs in the ninth. But Snitker never even had to think about going to his bullpen.

This night belonged to Fried.

“That was fun to watch,” Snitker said.