Fried K’s 11 but hits 7th-inning skid again

Braves score early, often to back young lefty's 15th win

August 31st, 2019

ATLANTA -- 's stock has steadily risen over the past few months and he has recently shown he could prove valuable in October. But as the Braves' left-hander impressed over the past few weeks, he repeatedly struggled to put the finishing touches on a potential gem.

Fried struck out half of the first 22 batters he faced and then abruptly faltered during the seventh inning of the Braves’ 10-7 win over the White Sox on Friday night at SunTrust Park. His struggles weren’t significant enough to prevent him from winning his sixth consecutive decision. But they did highlight a need for further development.

“I would have loved to have got one more inning out of him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But it was good. It was another strong outing.”

As the Braves maintained their 5 1/2-game lead in the National League East, their offense had its way with , who entered having produced a 0.94 ERA over his past seven starts. highlighted his two-hit night with a three-run homer in the second and helped create a 5-0 lead.

This seemed to be a prime opportunity for Fried to get through seven innings for just the second time in 35 career starts. The 25-year-old southpaw struck out half of the first 22 batters faced and totaled just 84 pitches while allowing one run through the first six innings.

But the 6-1 lead the Braves carried into the seventh was quickly threatened. Fried ended his night by sandwiching a hit batter between two singles. His strong effort was tarnished when highlighted a four-run frame with a three-run homer off .

Instead of a dazzling line, Fried was left to stare at the fact he was charged with four runs over six innings. He matched a career high with his 11 strikeouts, but he tasted the dissatisfaction attached to the fact this was another outing that didn’t end the way he wanted.

“You might not come out of a situation the way you want,” Fried said. “But as long as I can learn from each outing, I feel it’s a positive.”

There’s certainly no reason to complain about what Fried showed while producing a 3.51 ERA in six August starts. He has tallied two of his three career double-digit strikeout games within this stretch and proven how effective his slider and curveball can be when he consistently commands his fastball.

But the truth is, the month’s statistics could have been that much more impressive. Fried retired 15 of the first 19 batters he faced and recorded 10 strikeouts while keeping the Twins scoreless through the first five innings on Aug. 7. He then retired just one of the four batters faced during a three-run sixth.

A third trip through the lineup also proved to be unsuccessful last weekend in New York. Fried limited the Mets to one run through the first four innings and then surrendered three consecutive two-out hits, including ’s three-run homer, during a four-run fifth.

“I think it’s a matter of just simplifying things and not overthinking,” Fried said. “Sometimes, when you’re out there alone, you can overthink situations and maybe manifest something that isn’t there.”

A similar sentiment was offered by Greg Maddux when he threw fewer than 20 pitches while completing just two innings in his first Spring Training start. He stressed the need to mentally go through the preparatory process. He didn’t want to jump to three innings before first passing the challenge of completing two innings. And this was nearly a decade after he’d won his fourth straight Cy Young Award.

Fried will have more opportunities to get through the seventh inning and prove he has the frontline stuff necessary to successfully compete a third time through a lineup. He is still in the early stages of his career. But what he did over this past month made him one of the top three candidates to fill Atlanta’s postseason rotation.

“He’s another one that’s believing he can win,” Snitker said. “He’s toeing that rubber expecting to win. I think that’s a big step forward for him.”