NEW YORK – At one point, this matchup – Braves at Yankees – looked to be a World Series preview. But when the Braves slumped, everyone simply focused on whether they would turn it around.

Make no mistake, though: This weekend still might have been a World Series preview, which made it extra sweet for Braves fans.

On Sunday, the Braves defeated New York, 3-1, in front of a sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd to take two of three from the Bronx Bombers. Atlanta has won eight of its last 10 games.

Five observations:

1. Yes, it is late June. Yes, the Braves still have 87 games remaining. A lot will happen between now and the postseason.

But this series felt significant.

The Braves, who struggled for over a month, went on the road and won a series against the team with baseball’s second-best record.

“I think it’s just like getting a hit off a really tough pitcher: It just kind of gives you confidence for the next one,” Jarred Kelenic said. “I think we’re really happy with this series and we’re looking forward to the next one.”

The Braves knew they were one of baseball’s most talented teams. But to prove it against a team that has played well all season? That mattered.

This was huge.

“No, it is,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s a big series. It’s against a really good club. They’re relentless. They grind at-bats as good as anybody. They make you throw a lot of pitches. That was big. That was a big series win.”

Let’s get into it all.

2. Three years ago, Max Fried began an unreal run in July with seven scoreless innings versus the Rays. The rest, as they say, is history: Over his final 14 starts of the regular season, Fried posted a 1.74 ERA over 93 innings. He tallied two shutouts.

His current stretch is comparable – which is saying something.

After Sunday, Fried has a 2.12 ERA over his last 13 starts following two rough outings to begin the season. His latest act: He held a powerful Yankees lineup to a run over six innings to win a low-scoring game.

“I mean, we still have a long way to go,” Fried said when asked how proud he is of himself. “I’m happy that I can just keep us in games for as long as I can. When I’m taking the ball, hopefully we can win that day. We still have I don’t even know how many it is – probably a little over half a year left. Right now, it’s just about keeping the head down and trying to finish it.”

Twice in his career, Fried has had a span in which he’s posted a 2.12 ERA or lower while hurling at least 85 innings over 13 starts:

He did it in 2021.

He’s doing it now.

“Max is definitely one of the best pitchers in the game right now,” Jarred Kelenic said. “He comes out and just goes right at you. I think as a defense, playing behind him, it makes it pretty easy because you don’t have to do much. He’s just up there pitching around the zone the entire game. It’s fun to watch.”

We’re witnessing the best of Fried – and the Braves are grateful for it.

Those first two starts? He’s far past them.

“It’s kind of like our hitting. We knew it was gonna turn around,” Snitker said. “He wasn’t gonna be like that. That was kind of just something that was kind of a freak thing. But man, he’s turned it around and been his old self again, and been really, really good.”

3. In the sixth inning, Fried began to tire on a hot afternoon. He ran into trouble. This was a moment that could’ve swung the game other way.

The Yankees, down three before that frame, had scored a run and had a runner at second with no outs.

They only scored one. Fried escaped, with the help of a terrific defensive play (more soon).

Fried impressively stayed in control even when the Yankees tried to mount a comeback. He eventually rolled an inning-ending double play.

“That’s what Max does,” Snitker said. “He trusts his stuff. He’s throwing the ball really well right now.”

The key play: With the man on second, Orlando Arcia fielded a ground ball at shortstop and fired to Austin Riley at third base to cut down the lead runner for the out. Instead of a runner on third with one out, New York had a runner at first with one out.

It loomed large considering the next batter, Aaron Judge, singled and a run would’ve scored had it not been for Arcia and Riley.

“That’s huge,” Fried said. “To be able to change that from a man on third to a guy on first to be able to set up a double play, it changes the inning big time. Especially (because) Judge hits that ground ball, it’s a run scored – but instead it’s first and second and I have the ability to get a ground ball and get out of the inning. Just an unbelievable heads-up play from Orlando and Austin. Gave us a little bit of a jolt there.”

Added Kelenic: “Oh yeah. I was talking to Snit during the game there, like, that play is huge. Any time you can get a guy out at third base like that, in a close ballgame like that, that’s a difference-maker. That swung the momentum. We were in a little bit of trouble there, but to get him out at third base, that was a big key play of the game.”

At 87 pitches, Snitker lifted Fried following that sixth inning. The manager said he felt it would’ve been counterproductive to send Fried back out considering he’d emptied the tank in the sixth.

In a rubber game, Fried shined. Pierce Johnson, Joe Jiménez and Raisel Iglesias – who all hadn’t pitched since Tuesday – sealed the series win with a scoreless inning each. And because Fried completed the sixth, Johnson didn’t need to go more than an inning, which is big.

The Braves are rolling.

“I mean, every team is gonna go through their ups and downs,” Fried said. “We hit ours a little early – our little bit of a down stretch. But every single guy in this locker room is confident that we’re a really good and talented team. Honestly, we’re just playing baseball one day at a time, going out there just trying to win every game that we possibly can, and not worrying about what happened in the past and not worrying about what’s gonna happen in the future, but trying to stay present.”

4. The first time through the order against Nestor Cortes, the Braves’ lone baserunner was Sean Murphy, whom Cortes plunked.

When the order came back around, Kelenic gave the Braves a lift by punishing a mistake cutter for a two-out solo shot to right-center field in the third inning. This was the first run in a low-scoring game and, with Fried on the mound, it gave Atlanta much-needed momentum.

In the fifth inning, Kelenic lifted a sacrifice fly to put the Braves up two runs. Ozzie Albies followed with a run-scoring single.

Kelenic’s emergence in the leadoff spot has helped the Braves take off over the last week.

“He’s been really good. He should be confident,” Snitker said. “His at-bats have been really, really good. He worked the count to 3-2 (before the sacrifice fly). He popped that homer good, man. He got on top of that ball really well.”

Another encouraging sign: In that fifth inning, Arcia, who’s really struggling, doubled to move Ramón Laureano to third and better position the Braves for that two-run inning.

5. The Braves now head to St. Louis, where the Cardinals await. St. Louis has played much better baseball recently following its disastrous start.

The Braves will start Spencer Schwellenbach on Monday, Reynaldo López on Tuesday and Chris Sale on Wednesday. The Braves will see right-hander Lance Lynn in Monday’s series opener.

Due to their recent off day after his last start, López will continue pitching on extra rest. He hasn’t yet started on regular rest this year. In St. Louis, Sale will pitch on regular rest for the second time this season.

The Braves are in a good spot.

“Yeah, I think we’re playing more to our capabilities,” Snitker said. “Quite honestly, I still don’t think we’re hitting on all cylinders.”

Stat to know

6 - Since 2010, only six Braves pitchers have posted a 2.12 ERA across at least 85 innings over 13 starts: Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller, Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Jair Jurrjens and … Fried. And Fried, Hudson and Teheran are the only ones to accomplish it in two different seasons.


“Even sometimes when I’m sitting out there (in the outfield), I’m thinking, if I were to face him, what I would do. He can come at you from so many sides of the plate. His balls, they move so much. It’s tough.”-Kelenic on Fried

Up next

Monday’s game in St. Louis begins at 7:45 p.m.