After rocky start to season, Max Fried recaptures 2020 form

Braves pitcher Max Fried delivers during a game last month at Truist Park. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Caption
Braves pitcher Max Fried delivers during a game last month at Truist Park. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

For all that hasn’t gone as planned for the Braves this year – who’d have guessed that 60 games into the season they’d have Abraham Almonte and Guillermo Heredia as frequent starting outfielders, William Contreras as the starting catcher and Tucker Davidson in the starting pitching rotation? – a key pitcher has reverted to 2020 form recently.

Max Fried, who carried the Braves’ rotation for much of last year’s shortened schedule, struggled at the outset of this season, posting an 11.45 ERA through three starts and then going on the injured list for three weeks with a hamstring strain. But in six starts since returning from the IL, he has compiled a 2.40 ERA.

“I’d say that it’s fairly similar (to last year),” Fried said Friday of his recent performances. “I’ve gotten back to staying within myself and taking the same basics that I did last year. For me, it’s just keeping it simple and focusing on executing.”

Fried is scheduled to start Saturday at Miami. In seven career games (all starts) against the Marlins, he is 0-2 with a 6.53 ERA.

It was against the Marlins on April 13 at Truist Park that Fried had his worst start of the season – and probably of his career. He allowed eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits, two walks and two hit-batters in four innings. And in the bottom of the fourth inning, he injured his hamstring while running the bases.

He didn’t pitch again until May 5. But he has allowed only one run in five of his six starts since returning from the injured list and has pitched at least six innings in four of the starts. The stint on the IL benefited him.

“I was able to take some time to point out some inconsistences, (such as) realizing I wasn’t executing as well mechanically,” Fried said. “It just really kind of gave me a nice little refresh to get back to being who I was, instead of trying to do a little bit more.”

“I think he is (back where he was last year),” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Friday. “He had the rocky start, but he regrouped. He’s pitching with a lot of confidence and adding on to what he did (last year) and just showing he’s ‘the guy.’ The consistency that he’s had since he came back has been really good.”

Fried was 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA last season, when he finished fifth in the National League Cy Young Award voting. He’s 3-3 this season, and the early-season struggles still have his ERA inflated at 4.63.

He had his only shaky start of the past six June 1, allowing five runs (four earned) in 3-2/3 innings against the Nationals, but rebounded by holding the Dodgers to one run in six innings last weekend.

Braves notes

-- Cristian Pache, who lost the Braves’ starting center-field job for now when he batted .111 (7-for-63) earlier this season, hit two home runs for Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday. “We probably asked a lot of him off of a few games in the NL Championship Series, thinking that he was ready (for the majors),” Snitker said Friday. “So as many reps as he can get in Triple-A is just going to be better for him down the road.”

-- The Braves are one of three MLB teams that haven’t had a winning record at any point this season. The others: Miami and Texas.

-- Entering the weekend series at Miami, the Braves had a 14-16 record against NL East opponents, a big drop-off from recent years. Across the 2018-20 seasons, encompassing three division championships, the Braves were 119-73 against intra-divisional opponents. But this year they are 5-7 against the Phillies, 1-3 against the Mets, 1-3 against the Marlins (entering Friday) and 7-3 against the Nationals.

-- After back-to-back walk-off defeats in Philadelphia this week, the Braves’ relief pitchers are a cumulative 9-16, tied with Minnesota and Texas for the most bullpen losses in the majors. The Braves rank 27th in bullpen ERA at 4.86. Last season, Braves relievers were 21-9 with a 3.50 ERA, fourth best in the majors.