Braves’ Max Fried dominates Brewers to earn his fourth straight win

Braves' starting pitcher Max Fried (54) throws at Truist Park on Saturday, May 7, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

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Braves' starting pitcher Max Fried (54) throws at Truist Park on Saturday, May 7, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Up against the Milwaukee Brewers for the first time since throwing six scoreless innings in a 2021 National League Division Series win, Braves left-hander Max Fried nearly replicated the feat at his home ballpark on Saturday night.

Fried had the upper hand in his pitching duel against reigning NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, striking out eight and giving up just four hits and one run in an efficient seven-inning outing. Along with some highlight-worthy assists from his defense, Fried’s dominance powered the Braves to a 3-2 win, after a shaky performance from the pitching staff doomed the team on Friday night.

“I was mixing speeds a lot, locating off-speed pitches and trying to stay in the count,” Fried said. “It was just one of those nights that we were kind of clicking.”

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Coming off three straight winning starts - each with at least six innings pitched - Fried gave the Braves an ace to match up against Burnes. Along with ranking second on the Braves’ staff in strikeouts this season, he entered Saturday’s game having thrown 28 straight innings without surrendering a walk, though a second-inning walk to Milwaukee’s Hunter Renfroe ended the streak.

Fried utilized five different pitches throughout his start to great effect, but fooled the Brewers’ batters most often with his secondary pitches, the slider and changeup. Aside from Renfroe’s walk, Fried also exhibited his accuracy and control and tied season-highs in innings pitched and strikeouts.

“He goes up there and throws up those zeroes and gives you a chance against a really tough pitcher,” manager Brian Snitker said. “You knew runs were going to be at a premium. Once he got rolling there, using the whole arsenal too.”

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The Braves’ defense helped its starter out, too, especially when the Brewers threatened in the sixth. Shortstop Dansby Swanson snagged a line drive by catcher Victor Caratini with a diving catch for the first out of the inning, but Milwaukee’s Luis Urías and Willy Adames recorded consecutive base hits to left field. That sent 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich to the plate with two outs and a one-run deficit.

Fried found the zone on the first two pitches to take an 0-2 lead, but Yelich sent a blooper to left field for what appeared to be a likely RBI single. Instead, left fielder Travis Demeritte chased down the fly ball and slid head first for a diving catch and the inning’s final out. The play had an expected batting average of .620, well over any of the Brewers’ previous three hits.

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The Braves' Travis Demeritte (48) makes a catch on a ball hit by Milwaukee Brewers' left fielder Christian Yelich (22) to end the 6th inning at Truist Park on Saturday, May 7, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Braves' Travis Demeritte (48) makes a catch on a ball hit by Milwaukee Brewers' left fielder Christian Yelich (22) to end the 6th inning at Truist Park on Saturday, May 7, 2022.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
The Braves' Travis Demeritte (48) makes a catch on a ball hit by Milwaukee Brewers' left fielder Christian Yelich (22) to end the 6th inning at Truist Park on Saturday, May 7, 2022. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Braves 3, Brewers 2

In contrast, Milwaukee’s defense spoiled Burnes’ masterful start with fielding and throwing errors, including two egregious misplays in the sixth that allowed the Braves to extend their lead to two runs.

The Brewers finally scored a run off Fried an inning later when Renfroe hit a fastball 425 feet to center field for a solo home run. The left-hander exited the game after 95 pitches and seven innings with the Braves still ahead 2-1, and the bullpen preserved the lead in the final innings to close out the Brewers.

“We had some unbelievable defensive plays, some timely hitting and Travis (d’Arnaud) was unbelievable back there,” Fried said of his catcher. “It was really, really good, just a complete team game.”