MIAMI – From the outside, questions and concerns surrounded Max Fried after two poor starts.

Inside the building, the Braves knew Fried, one of their aces, would bounce back. They believed he more resembled what he did on Friday, when he shut down the Marlins at loanDepot Park as the Braves won the series opener, 8-1.

Five observations:

1. Around the visiting clubhouse, there really was no relief. Everyone knew Fried would soon return to form.

But manager Brian Snitker, speaking right outside the clubhouse, put the collective feeling into words.

“Max needed that,” Snitker said. “He had a rough couple of first starts and he rebounded and looked like his old self again. That was really good. It was really good stuff. He just looked like his old self. And it happens.”

Yes it does: Every pitcher struggles. In this game, no one is immune.

And no one – at least no sane person – believed Fried would continue logging poor outings. But to see it? That’s something else.

And over 6 1/3 terrific innings of one-run baseball, Fried broke out of his rut.

“For me, it’s been frustrating the last couple, giving it up and not giving us a chance to win,” Fried said. “So, having a tight game through five, six innings, and being able to keep it there for our offense to go off the way that they do, it was nice to contribute and it was a good win.”

Until the seventh inning, the Braves only had two runs. They had wasted countless opportunities to extend that lead by failing to drive in runners.

This was okay: They had Fried – the old Fried. He gave up four hits, and only two through six innings. He struck out four and walked one. He spun a Fried-ian gem.

“Yeah, that’s big, not only for us, but for him,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “His first two starts didn’t go the way he wanted, and having five or six days in between those two starts, I’m sure, was eating at him. And for him to have a good one today is not only good for him, but also good for us to give our bullpen a break too.”

Did Fried turn the frustration into motivation?

“I mean, at this point, you’d kind of use anything as motivation,” he said. “Not performing to the standard that I hold myself to, it’s nice to go out there and have a good one, and help this team win, because I’ve really put us in some holes.”

2. In his season debut, Fried threw 43 pitches and didn’t make it out of the first inning. In his last start, he hurled 37 pitches in a six-run first inning.

The differences were clear from the beginning of Friday’s outing.

Fried threw 19 pitches in a scoreless first inning. And after a third-inning single, he retired 10 of the next 11 batters. His efficiency showed: He made it through four scoreless innings in 53 pitches, and eventually tossed 84.

“I just think his fastball was a lot better,” Snitker said. “And he was kind of on the attack and (was) the aggressor, like he normally is with that stuff that he’s got. He was spinning the ball really good, and I think his fastball was really good, too.”

“I saw great fastball command and off-speed command,” d’Arnaud said. “The right conversations were going on in between innings and even before the game. He was his normal self today.”

Why was Fried’s fastball better?

“Honestly, it was just about focusing and driving that ball in on right-handers’ hands,” Fried said. “That’s what I’ve been doing really well over the last couple of years. I was able to get a lot of weak contact tonight and ground balls – which, if I’m doing that, everything’s working right.”

Fried collected 10 groundouts. The Marlins never really squared him up.

3. Atlanta put the leadoff man on base every time in the third through sixth innings. The Braves, though, had one run to show for those frames.

They led, 2-0.

Then it was 7-0.

“You know who we are,” Marcell Ozuna said. “We can do damage in one inning. That’s (the mindset) we’re taking from the beginning of the game.”

In Friday’s seventh inning, the Braves showed patience. They hustled. The ball stayed in the ballpark, but they scored five runs.

The Braves sent 11 men to the plate. Orlando Arcia, who led off the inning with a double, collected two hits. Ozuna hit a two-run single. The Braves drew three walks and one hit by pitch.

“Obviously we’re a threat with the slug. But we’re also very patient and understand and believe in the guys behind us, that they can get the job done,” d’Arnaud said. “So I think that’s a huge benefit stepping into the box any at-bat.”

4. In the ninth inning, Ozuna blasted a solo homer to punctuate the victory. He has six home runs, which is tied for the MLB lead.

And if you remember, he began turning it around last season with the series in Miami in early May. He must like Miami, huh?

“Yeah, it’s good,” Ozuna said. “When I come to Miami, it’s like I feel at home. My family lives here, so I live here. This is the place that I grew up with the Marlins, so I know the stadium and everything very well.”

Last season, Ozuna went 6-for-13 with three homers and six RBIs in those three games here. Before that, he was 5-for-59 with two homers.

This season is much different: Through 12 games, Ozuna is batting .360 with a 1.167 OPS.

5. The roof was open – a rarity in Miami. It led to an unintended consequence.

In the middle of Friday’s game, there were bugs everywhere – up high, down low on the field. They might’ve been moths.

D’Arnaud saw them.

“It was wild,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that here.”

They were on the infield, in the press box and everywhere else.

“In between the pitcher’s mound and home plate as well,” d’Arnaud said. “They were everywhere.”

Stat to know

68 - Since Miami’s ballpark opened in 2012, the Braves’ 68 wins here are the most by any visiting club.


“A big thing was just going back to who I am, and that’s changing speeds, using both sides of the plate, and not worrying about results and just kind of attacking and working together, and just kind of trying to feel comfortable and like myself, because the last couple outings, I haven’t necessarily felt like that.” - Fried

Up next

Left-hander Chris Sale leads the Braves in Saturday’s matchup against right-hander Max Meyer and the Marlins. First pitch is at 4:10 p.m.