If the Phillies spoil the Braves’ bid to clinch Thursday, the race extends into the weekend. The Braves would need just one win in their three-game series against the Mets, or for the Phillies to suffer a loss in their series against the Marlins, to secure another division title.
“I feel like we’ve been playing well,” starter Max Fried said. “Just high energy, extreme alertness. We’ve been playing that way the last week or so. We know that every game matters and I don’t see us changing that mentality until we come out with it and clinch it. We know we have a job to do and it’s head down until that happens.”
2. The Braves wasted no time assembling an advantage Wednesday. Outfielder Jorge Soler, who was on base four times Wednesday, and first baseman Freddie Freeman greeted Phillies starter Aaron Nola with consecutive singles to open the bottom of the first.
An out later, third baseman Austin Riley softly hit a ball that resulted in a bloop hit between first base and right field, scoring the game’s first run. Outfielder Adam Duvall’s grounder scored Freeman for a 2-0 lead.
3. Riley added another two runs with a double (the 50th of his career) in the seventh, extending the Braves’ lead to 5-2. It was his ninth game with three or more RBIs this season, and seventh with exactly three.
The hit was part of a four-run seventh that also featured a two-RBI single from shortstop Dansby Swanson. Known for thriving in big moments, Swanson delivered three hits Wednesday.
“Him going the other way, the ability to stay on that off-speed, his swing is looking really good right now and he’s putting a lot of work into it,” Riley said.
4. While his 17-inning scoreless streak ended, Fried was again outstanding. After pitching a shutout in his last start, Fried held the Phillies to two runs (one earned) on four hits over seven innings. He struck out six and didn’t walk a hitter.
“Fried coming off a nine-inning complete game, honestly, he was probably spent after the sixth,” manager Brian Snitker said. “And he went out in the seventh and had a 1-2-3 inning. Just shows the pitchability of this kid and what he can do. I guarantee you he was spent, but he went out and made pitches and got through a 1-2-3 inning.”
It was the third straight start Fried logged at least seven innings. And it might’ve been his final tune-up before the postseason.
“I’ll be ready whenever I have to pitch next,” Fried said.
The Braves’ top two starters have silenced the Phillies’ offense over the last two nights. Charlie Morton twirled seven scoreless frames in the series opener, outdueling Cy Young candidate Zack Wheeler. Fried followed with his own sterling outing.
Morton and Fried combined to surrender one earned run on seven hits over 14 innings. They struck out 16 and walked two. That’s what the Braves are looking for in a postseason series.
“Those guys work their tail off,” Riley said. “I wish you could see the preparation that both of them do. Max tonight was outstanding. Can’t say enough about those guys.”
5. One player who’s been victimized by Braves pitching: MVP candidate Bryce Harper. The Phillies’ right fielder, who always receives a hearty welcome from the Atlanta crowd, is 0-for-7 with five strikeouts, a walk and four left stranded in the series.
Harper has had a sensational second half and might win his second MVP award, but it won’t be because of what he’s contributed thus far during his team’s most important series of the year.
Stat to know
1.74 (Fried has MLB’s best second-half ERA at 1.74 over 14 starts.)
“I don’t know that we’ve had (that good of a) 1-2 punch since I’ve been here.” – Snitker on Morton and Fried
Right-hander Ian Anderson (8-5, 3.60) will try to pitch the Braves into the playoffs Thursday. He’ll face Phillies veteran righty Kyle Gibson (10-8, 3.60).