CHICAGO – As good as they are, as much talent as they have, the Braves know their chances of winning the World Series are much higher with Max Fried. Not only is he their ace, but he also is one of baseball’s top starting pitchers.

After nearly three months on the injured list, Fried spun a gem in his return to the Braves’ rotation as the team blew out the Cubs 8-0 on Friday at Wrigley Field.

Five observations:

1. In his first big-league start since May, Fried allowed Braves fans to relax. Two seasons ago, the Braves won a World Series without Ronald Acuña Jr. But the championship odds, of course, are much better with Fried healthy.

The road ahead will be difficult, but having Fried may give the Braves – and their fans – comfort in their dreams coming true.

“It’s like making a huge trade, to get him back,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said before the game. “He’s been one of the top starting pitchers in the league for a while now. You miss a guy like that.”

The big question: Would Fried be effective when he returned?

On Friday, the ace gave a resounding answer.

Fried threw six scoreless innings. He retired the first 12 men he faced before allowing a fifth-inning single. He gave up three hits – all singles. He struck out eight batters and didn’t walk any.

“I felt sharper than expected,” Fried said. “Had a lot of nervous energy. Just was looking forward to this day for a long time.”

Added Snitker: “That was something else. I really didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, I didn’t think he would be that sharp.”

Fried touched 97 mph. His fastball averaged 95 mph. On 33 swings, the Cubs whiffed nine times. Fried threw 72 pitches, and 49 were strikes.

He faced only two batters over the minimum.

“That was about as good as you can expect,” Murphy said.

“Fried was pitching like an ace,” Cubs manager David Ross told reporters.

2. With Fried sidelined, the Braves went on an unreal run and built baseball’s best record.

“I think a big part of that just allowed me to not have to rush back or not have to try to hurry up too quickly,” Fried said. “It was very much on my timeline of whenever I was feeling good, we kind of moved to the next thing. And I think that was really big, and it really helped me have a really good foundation to hopefully go throughout the end at the end of the year strong enough.”

Think about it: The Braves are 70-37. Fried and Kyle Wright have combined to start 11 of the 107 games.


“I was sitting there today thinking (about) what we’ve accomplished without (Fried) and Kyle,” Snitker said. “It’s been pretty impressive.”

But the Braves understand they need Fried to have the best shot at achieving their goals.

“Yeah, Max has pitched in those big games before,” Murphy said. “He’s been in those spots, so having a guy out there that you trust there, and you know is going to be prepared is a comforting thing.”

3. After Fried made quick work of the Cubs in the third, he sat and waited.

For a long time.

After the first nine Braves failed to reach base against Kyle Hendricks, the Braves sent 11 men to the plate in the top of the fourth inning. The Braves collected eight hits and scored seven runs. Sean Murphy and Marcell Ozuna launched back-to-back home runs.

Game over.

“I’ve never been a part of an offense that can do that,” Murphy said. “It feels like any inning, at any point, we can explode for a whole bunch. It’s always fun when you get those innings.”

Ronald Acuña Jr. – who had a single and a triple in the inning – scored on Austin Riley’s RBI groundout. Ozzie Albies, who doubled, scored on Olson’s double. After Murphy and Ozuna homered, Orlando Arcia and Michael Harris II both got hits before eventually scoring.

“I think we’re accustomed to that happening in the first inning,” Fried said, “but I’ll take it any time I can get it.”

4. Asked before the game about what it would be like to face Fried, former Brave Dansby Swanson said: “I guess we’re gonna find out.”

Swanson versus Fried: 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

“Weird, different,” Fried said of facing Swanson. “I think we’re extreme competitors and we want to go out there and give our best. He’s always kind of brought that out of me.”

5. After Fried’s six scoreless frames, Brad Hand made his Braves debut in the seventh. The team acquired him hours before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Hand worked around a hit to turn in a scoreless inning.

Stat to know

7.71 – In nine career games, eight of them starts, versus the Braves, Hendricks has a 7.71 ERA.


“I’ve had a blast watching them, but I’ve really missed out being a part of it. Just trying to do what I can to kind of just contribute. I know that if I can just give up a few runs and be aggressive and keep the team in it, they can explode at any time, like they did today.” – Fried on being back with his teammates

Up next

Bryce Elder will start Saturday’s game, which begins at 2:20 p.m. ET. Right-hander Javier Assad will pitch for Chicago.