Another Max Masterpiece: Braves’ Fried throws second complete game of season

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried throws to a Chicago Cubs batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried throws to a Chicago Cubs batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

CHICAGO – In baseball, life moves fast. At this moment, Braves manager Brian Snitker and his players are here fighting for a series victory. They will soon board a plane headed for Pittsburgh. They have plenty of season left.

They live in the moment, but can still appreciate nights like Wednesday, when they witness something that has become rare in today’s game.

In a 9-2 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Max Fried threw a complete game. He allowed only three hits. He hurled 105 pitches.

This was another Max Masterpiece – something that has become common.

Five observations:

1. Fried’s recent stretch has come with the inevitability of some of the iconic pitchers of this generation: Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler. Each time Fried steps on the rubber, something special could occur.

He is elite like the rest of the names above – and in his own way. Travis d’Arnaud, who caught Wednesday’s gem, has shared clubhouses with Cy Young Award winners deGrom and Blake Snell. But d’Arnaud doesn’t like comparing players.

“Max is a very unique guy,” d’Arnaud said. “He is a Game 6 World Series winner. He wants the ball against any team, he wants the ball in the biggest moments of this sport. When he’s not doing well, he knows how to fix it really quick. He understands who he is as a pitcher, doesn’t try to do too much. I think that’s all characteristics of an ace, and he’s definitely an ace.”

Fried on Wednesday carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, when Ian Happ ended it with a leadoff double. Fried has taken a no-hitter into the sixth inning or later three times this season. Wednesday was his fifth complete game – the other four were shutouts. He’s gone the distance twice this season. And we are only in May.

Versus the Cubs, Fried was only charged with one earned run. He’s given up one or zero runs in five of 10 starts this year.

Over his last six starts, Fried has allowed only eight runs over 42 1/3 innings. He’s the first pitcher with a stretch like this since 2021, when Wheeler surrendered only six runs over 42 2/3 frames from May to June for the Phillies. And before that, the last time someone matched this feat was in 2019, when Cole did it for the Astros.

“I think there’s a lot of ups and downs with it,” Fried said of this run. “Personally, I’ve felt like I haven’t been consistent with my mentality of attacking, and staying on the attack. I’ve felt like I’ve just been kind of dancing around the zone a lot. And tonight, I wanted to make it a point of emphasis to go after hitters, get early contact and be a little bit more of the aggressor rather than trying to make a perfect pitch around the corners.”

2. After completing the eighth inning, Fried walked into the dugout at 94 pitches. Given how important he is to Atlanta’s success, Snitker could’ve lifted him then and called it a night. He’d done his job.

The manager sent Fried back out.

“Max, he’s upfront with me,” Snitker said. “When he came out after the eighth, I talked to him, and he says, ‘I feel great.’ He only threw 88 pitches the time before. And he’s gonna have an extra day. So, you know what, I’m gonna go with him at that.”

Fried needed only 11 pitches to finish the game.

“Snit’s always been very honest, and I’ve always been honest with him on how I’m feeling,” Fried said. “Extremely thankful for him to have the trust and faith in me to be able to go out there and finish it. He’s always been honest. If you’re efficient, you’re going out there and you’re controlling your pitches and you’re in control, he’s gonna let you go.”

Fried struck out nine batters and didn’t walk any. This was the second time in his career he’s fanned at least nine without any walks (he also did it in 2019 versus the Nationals).

At the end of April, Fried hurled six no-hit innings in Seattle. Less than two weeks later, he fired seven no-hit frames in New York against the Mets. And now, this – six perfect innings, but still a complete game.

Fried has thrown 109 pitches, 108 pitches, 105 pitches and 100 pitches in different starts this season. With the injured Spencer Strider out for the year, Fried has been dominant.

Nights like Wednesday are even more special in today’s game, when starting pitchers aren’t afforded the same leash as they once were.

“It’s something I pride myself in, on going deep into games,” Fried said. “The nights where you’re efficient and you’re not walking guys and not wasting pitches, it’s more about just putting your foot on the gas pedal and just keep going rather than thinking about it and waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s, nope, keep it going. I just wanted to go as deep as I possibly could into the game knowing that we’re in a stretch of 17 straight. And especially with the doubleheader we just had to be able to take a little bit of the load off the bullpen, that was a big thing.”

What’s the common thread in these outings?

“Fastball command, efficiency, attacking guys, not giving the other team any hitter’s counts, and just trusting his stuff,” d’Arnaud said. “Not always going after swing and miss. Obviously he does when he needs to, but it’s hard to throw a complete game when you only try to (get) swing and miss. He believes in that a lot.”


3. As he started to walk toward home plate, Zack Short tried to get Snitker’s attention, but had no luck. He looked over at third-base coach Matt Tuiasosopo and thought he saw the bunt sign, but wasn’t sure.

Regardless …

“I was doing it no matter what,” Short said. “I haven’t really seen the ball that well over the last few days. I’ve done that a bunch. Especially off a lefty, if I just get it down, job gets done – and chances are, it might be a hit, too. I knew that I was doing it as I was walking up there.”

He executed a perfect squeeze bunt, pushing it toward the right side. Orlando Arcia raced home and slid in ahead of the throw. Short had driven in the run and collected a hit to jumpstart what became a six-run inning.

After the Cubs scored a run in the sixth, the Braves turned it into a rout in the seventh. Not long after Short’s bunt single, Marcell Ozuna and Matt Olson launched back-to-back homers, just like they did in Monday’s doubleheader.

The offense gave Fried the cushion to comfortably finish the job.

“He’s nasty. He truly is nasty,” Short said. “The way that he was flipping his curveball in early tonight, from the first inning on, it’s a whole other thing you have to worry about as a hitter. When he’s flipping that in there to steal a strike and for strike threes, it’s kind of a two-headed monster. There’s a reason why he is who he is. He’s a dawg and he’s nasty.”

4. As special as this outing became, it also served a practical purpose: By going nine, Fried helped save the bullpen and his team.

“I told him how big it was, just to give that bullpen a little blow,” Snitker said. “They’ve all done a great job. It was nice to (see) the zero days rest, bust that bubble, when I looked down at my card.”

The Braves are in a stretch of 17 games in 17 days. Their bullpen didn’t have to work on Wednesday, which should serve them well throughout the final four games of this road trip.

Fried retired the first 15 Cubs he faced. He struck out six of them.

The Cubs swung at 14 of Fried’s curveballs, and whiffed seven times. They missed seven times on 11 swings at his slider.

“He’s not gonna do the same thing every time he goes out,” Olson said. “He’s able to mix up. Some days, he’s cutting fastballs like crazy. Other days, he’s throwing sinkers and changeups. Curveball looked really good tonight.”

5. On Sept. 3, 2017, Fried made his first career start here at Wrigley Field. He earned the win that day.

He’s since terrorized the Cubs.

On Wednesday, Fried became the 10th pitcher in history to win each of his first 10 starts versus the Cubs. In those games, he has a 1.18 ERA – five earned runs over 38 innings.

And now, he has a complete game at this ballpark.

“I love pitching here,” Fried said. “You get on the field and you can feel the history. First big-league start (was here). I think there’s always something a little sentimental about it.”

Stat to know

3 of 21 - The Cubs put 21 balls in play, and only three left the bat at over 100 mph. Fried induced weak contact all night.


“Command, stuff – from the get-go, from the first inning on. He was just really good, and spinning the ball really good. Great command of his fastball, secondary pitches. And that was huge. From what we’ve been through the last three or four days, to give that bullpen a rest was big.” - Snitker on Fried

Up next

The Braves will recall AJ Smith-Shawver to start Thursday’s game against the Cubs. Right-hander Ben Brown will start for Chicago. The finale begins at 2:20 p.m.