Fried shines as Braves silence Rays

In a season with few certainties, at least the Braves know they’re in good shape when Mike Soroka or Max Fried is on the mound.

Fried retired the first 14 batters Thursday, silencing the Rays in a 2-1 Braves victory. After dropping two games in St. Petersburg, the Braves rebounded for back-to-back wins at home to split the season series with Tampa Bay.

Fried’s perfect game was thwarted by Mike Brosseau’s single with two down in the fifth. Fried promptly picked him off at first to end the inning. The lefty had five pickoffs last season, which was tied for the most in the National League.

The Rays collected another two hits off Fried, capped by Willy Adames’ two-out double in the seventh. Fried was then replaced by Luke Jackson, who allowed an RBI single to Ji-Man Choi before retiring Joey Wendle.

That was the only run charged to Fried, who struck out seven and walked one over his 6-2/3 innings. He threw 85 pitches, 57 strikes. Fried is sporting a 2.31 ERA across his first two starts (11-2/3 innings).

“Every night he goes out there, I feel like there’s potential for an eight, nine-inning shutout,” said Mark Melancon, who earned the save. "

Soroka and Fried are fulfilling expectations, but that can’t save the rest of the Braves’ rotation. They’ll need multiple other starters to step up, beginning with Sean Newcomb on Friday. But in the meantime, they’ll find comfort in their rising duo.

“Very much so (I feel we have two special pitchers),” manager Brian Snitker said. “Maxy quietly had some kind of year last year. There was a lot of attention given to Mike, but Max, you look at his year, it was pretty special too. That’s a pretty good feeling as an organization to have two young guys of that caliber – the makeup, the stuff, the people that they are, how they conduct themselves. It’s pretty special.”

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

ExplorePhotos: Braves end series against Rays with win

Notes from Thursday:

- The Braves scored both runs in the second. Marcell Ozuna singled and Adam Duvall was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Dansby Swanson’s hit scored run No. 1. Austin Riley’s sacrifice fly scored the next.

Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough didn’t allow any additional hits across his 6-1/3 innings. The Braves ultimately won a game in which they had only three hits.

- Swanson continued his scorching hot start. While his RBI single was his only knock Thursday, he’s hitting .370 to begin the season. Swanson’s nine RBIs lead the National League and are two behind Nelson Cruz for the major-league lead.

- Left fielder Adam Duvall made a sensational running catch to rob Jose Martinez for the first out of the ninth inning. Melancon’s save was aided by Duvall’s snag and a failed stolen base attempt by Kevin Kiermaier.

“Oh my God, wow,” Snitker said. “You’ll see that one for the next 24 hours until we play another game. That was really good. Huge catch.”

- Catcher Tyler Flowers went 0-for-2 with a walk in his season debut. Flowers did, however, throw out Kiermaier at second to prevent the Rays from having a runner in scoring position with one out.

- Left-hander Will Smith threw a side session Wednesday and “isn’t far away,” Snitker said. Smith missed camp and the beginning of the season due to testing positive for COVID-19.

Smith’s return, which is expected within the next week, will bolster the Braves’ bullpen. Smith was an All-Star for the Giants last season, earning a 2.76 ERA with a career-high 34 saves.

- Speaking of the bullpen, outside Touki Toussaint’s tough outing earlier this week, the Braves’ well-compensated bullpen has produced a 1.38 ERA over its first 26 innings. Melancon has saved the past two games, making him 14-for-14 in save opportunities in his Braves tenure.

- The Braves open a four-game series with the Mets on Friday. When the series concludes, the Braves will have faced New York in seven of their first 11 games. The Braves took two of three in Queens to begin the season.

Newcomb will start Friday against Mets righty Rick Porcello. The Braves tagged Porcello for seven runs in his debut last weekend.

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