Max Fried holds his own against Cy Young favorite

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The Reds' Trevor Bauer surpassed the Braves' Max Fried in the National League Cy Young Award race in recent weeks, but Fried held his own against the Cincinnati ace in Wednesday’s playoff opener at Truist Park.

Neither starter allowed a run in a tense game the Braves eventually won 1-0 in 13 innings.

“That was as fun a game as I’ve played in in a long time,” Fried said afterward.

After pitching only six innings in the previous 24 days because of back and ankle issues, Fried worked seven innings in his first career postseason start. He was economical, throwing only 78 pitches. He allowed six hits, struck out five and walked none.

He needed to be that good to offset Bauer, who allowed two hits, struck out 12 and walked none in his 7-2/3 innings.

By the time the game was settled, the starting pitchers were long gone from the mound. But they had set the tone for the day of offensive futility.

Fried’s day was all the more impressive considering that the first two batters to face him in the first inning reached base on back-to-back singles, putting runners on first and third.

“It happened quick,” Fried said. “You try to maybe get the feel of the game, and the next thing you know a runner is in scoring position, no outs, and you’ve got to try to limit damage as much as you can. I was just trying to get out of that with only one run, trying to get a ground ball for two outs. Fortunately for me, I was able to get out of it with none.”

Fried stranded the baserunners by retiring the next three batters without allowing the ball to leave the infield. Despite all that happened later in the four-hour, 39-minute marathon of a game, the Braves presumably would have lost in nine innings if Fried hadn’t escaped the first-inning trouble.

“He has been special all year,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “I think it’s just absolutely amazing to give up single, single in the top of the first and get out of that. I think that really helped him out right there and made him feel like he belonged.”

From the second through the fifth innings, Fried allowed only one base runner.

“He got on a little groove there, and that’s about as good as he can throw,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

The Reds threatened in the sixth and seventh innings, but didn’t score, perhaps in part because of some adventurous base running on their part. Snitker said Fried probably could have continued into the eighth, but the manager opted to turn the game over to his deep bullpen, considering Fried’s limited innings recently.

“I told you earlier if we got five (innings) out of him, I was going to be really happy,” Snitker said. “We got seven, and he was very efficient with his pitching. His stuff was crisp. He had both breaking balls working. That was huge to get us to those guys in the bullpen.”

Seven Braves relievers combined for six scoreless innings.

From the start, Fried knew he had little margin for error, given the opposing starting pitcher.

“For sure, (Bauer) has been one of the best pitchers in the game this year,” Fried said. “I knew I had to go out there and get some really quick contact ... and keep us in the game for as long as possible to hand it over to the bullpen.”