CHICAGO. If anyone was wondering if Max Fried would rust after a three-month stint on the injured list, the Braves left-hander responded loudly in Friday’s 8-0 win at Wrigley Field.
And for those wondering what effect Freed could have on an already strong Atlanta team the rest of the way, check out his dominating performance against the Cubs.
“It’s like making a huge deal to get him back,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “He was one of the best starting pitchers in the league for a while. You miss this guy.”
Snitker said before the game after Fried, who was placed on the injured list on May 9 with a sprained left forearm, was activated from the injured list. Fried then threw six close innings, allowing only three hits—all singles—and struck out eight.
Freed’s return had a big impact on the Braves, who became the first team in baseball to score 70 wins on Friday. But his dominance after such a long break seemed to his skipper at least something of a pleasant surprise.
“It was something else,” Snitker said after the game. “I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t think it would be so sharp. What he did was pretty good and very impressive.”
Fried sent off Chicago’s first 12 hitters in order and faced a minimum over five innings. Wagner lead single Cody Bellinger in the fifth gave the Cubs their first baserunner, and Freed quickly wiped him out, forcing Ian Gomez to land a double play.
“Fried hit like an ace,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Real stuff in the zone, mixing multiple pitches, kitchen sink thrown at everyone. We never gave him any trouble except for a couple of singles. Yes, just a beating.
“It’s 94+ on the left side and it’s got real mileage. He has a few cuts, the change was effective, he was able to land the breaker and rear leg sliders. He was good. It’s a multi-pitch mix in the zone, with things. He is good.”
Fried threw just 72 innings. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.7 mph. In his previous five starts this season, he averaged 93.7 mph.
“I felt sharper than I expected,” Freed said. “Lots of nervous energy. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. Really just tried to simplify it and keep us there for as long as we can.
“These guys have been good for so long. I just wanted to fit in organically and not ruin anything.”
Initially, Friday’s game was like a pitching duel between Freed and Kyle Hendrix, who together took out the first 18 hitters in order. But Atlanta sent 11 batters to the plate in the fourth inning, counting eight hits—six for extra bases—and scoring seven runs.
Shaun Murphy and Marcell Ozuna hit back-to-back homers, the 14th time the Braves have done so this season. Their franchise record (16 in 2019) and MLB record (18 for the ’96 Mariners) are just around the corner.
“I’ve never been part of an offense that can do that,” Murphy said of the Braves’ ability to put up inning crookedness. “It feels like any inning, any moment, we could explode for the whole group.”
Six off-base hits in the fourth tied the Braves with the most hits in a single inning in the past 50 seasons. They also had six on June 11, 2002 against the Twins.
The Braves have endured the absence of Freed, National League runner-up Cy Young last year, and Kyle Wright — MLB’s only 20-game winner last season — over the past few months due to strong organizational depth. Their rotation came in Friday eighth in baseball’s ERA (3.99).
“A big part of that allowed me to take my time back, not try to rush too fast,” Freed said. “It was very similar to my schedule. Whenever I felt good, we moved on to the next case. It was really great.”
But it’s no secret what Freed means to the Atlanta staff and what his presence could mean in the future and in October. And as much as the southpaw says he enjoys watching his team achieve such success, he misses being a part of it.
“We trusted everyone who came up and the guys we put in those places did a great job,” Murphy said. “They kept us until Max came back. Now that Max is back, it seems like the staff has gone a lot deeper.”