Max Fried shuts down Reds, Braves’ offense explodes late

Atlanta Braves' Max Fried throws during the first inning a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

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Atlanta Braves' Max Fried throws during the first inning a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: AP

CINCINNATI – Max Fried shut down the Reds and the Braves’ offense exploded late as Atlanta beat Cincinnati, 9-1, in Friday’s series opener.

ExploreThe AJC's complete coverage on the Braves

Here are five observations on the Braves (45-33):

1. The Braves led by a run as the teams headed to the seventh inning. It soon became a blowout.

The Braves scored three in the seventh on Dansby Swanson’s homer, three more in the eighth and one in the ninth. Atlanta can do this, and showed once again why its lineup is so dangerous.

In the eighth inning, Adam Duvall ripped a run-scoring double. The next batter, Orlando Arcia, chopped a ball in between the third baseman and shortstop that scored two more Braves. Austin Riley drove in a run with a single in the ninth.

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Atlanta Braves' Adam Duvall gestures after hitting an RBI double during the eighth inning of the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. The Braves won 9-1. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves' Adam Duvall gestures after hitting an RBI double during the eighth inning of the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. The Braves won 9-1. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Braves' Adam Duvall gestures after hitting an RBI double during the eighth inning of the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. The Braves won 9-1. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

And just like that, the Braves led by eight runs at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.

“This is one of them ballparks (where) you never feel comfortable,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s like you just got to keep scoring because you never feel good about any kind of a lead here. I’ve seen a lot of them vanish over the years, so that was nice that we kept adding on.”

Added Fried on Atlanta’s lineup: “One through nine, it’s pretty good. They can hurt you at any moment. It’s not an easy lineup to navigate. You have to kind of pitch a full 27 outs.”

2. It is difficult to come up with new ways to describe Fried’s dominance. He is pitching like one of baseball’s true aces, someone you expect to twirl a gem every fifth day.

This time, he held the Reds to a run – on a third-inning RBI single – over seven innings. He allowed five hits, struck out four and walked none in a 94-pitch outing.

“He’s just so, almost like surgical, in a way,” Swanson said. “He’s prepared, knows exactly what he wants to do. He’s got such a good baseball brain, can use and trust not only his abilities but his instincts, what he sees. Not only can he do that, but he can also execute it, right? Part of it is he’s got the stuff, he’s got the mind, but he’s also got the ability to do what it is he wants to do.”

Fried has a 2.66 ERA this season. He seems destined for the All-Star Game if he continues at this pace. He has looked like one of baseball’s best pitchers this season.

Here’s a way to contextualize Fried’s mastery this season: The left-hander has allowed two or fewer runs in 12 of his 16 starts, and he went at least six innings in all but one of those outings.

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Atlanta Braves' Silvino Bracho points skyward after the final out of the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. The Braves won 9-1. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves' Silvino Bracho points skyward after the final out of the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. The Braves won 9-1. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Braves' Silvino Bracho points skyward after the final out of the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. The Braves won 9-1. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

3. Swanson crushed the ball and it sailed over the wall for a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning. The homer was crucial – not only for the game, but for the narrative.

Throughout his career, Swanson has been known as a streaky hitter. As he ripped through opposing pitching staffs this season, you understood a slump would come at some point because, well, that’s baseball.

Swanson entered this series on an 0-for-14 run. He responded by going 4-for-5 with two doubles and the homer, perhaps preventing his skid from being longer.

“Just kind of got back in tune with myself,” Swanson said. “Just felt like in Philly, kind of just missed a lot of balls, and the ones I did hit hard got caught. That’s the nature of this game, and you’ve just got to continue to move forward and take it one day at a time.”

And had Reds left fielder Tommy Pham not cut off a ball and held Swanson to a double, the shortstop probably would’ve stretched it into a triple and hit for the cycle.

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Atlanta Braves' Austin Riley watches his two-run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning a baseball game in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

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Atlanta Braves' Austin Riley watches his two-run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning a baseball game in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Braves' Austin Riley watches his two-run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning a baseball game in Cincinnati, Friday, July 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

4. Riley often provides flashes of the strength for which he’s known. He possesses raw power.

The latest example came Friday, when he launched a 405-foot, two-run home run off Mike Minor in the top of the first inning. A closer look made you appreciate the homer much more.

Minor, the Braves’ first-round draft pick in 2009, threw Riley an 84-mph changeup off the plate. It looked like a ball, but Riley powered it out to straightaway center.

5. Ronald Acuña stepped into the box for the first time since exiting a game because he bruised his left foot by fouling a ball off of it. In a cruel twist, Minor hit Acuña on the right foot with a pitch.

He was hit by a pitch later in the game too.

Acuña took first base and remained in the game both times, which probably delighted his coaches and teammates.

In his return, he went 2-for-3 with a double and a single. He also scored two runs.

Braves 9, Reds 1

Stat to know

10 - The Braves have scored at least nine runs in 10 of 78 games.

Quotable

“He puts himself in that conversation of those guys you want to watch pitch, and when he’s pitching, everybody pays attention.” - Snitker on Fried

Up next

Braves right-hander Spencer Strider faces Reds righty Tyler Mahle in Saturday’s game, which begins at 4:10 p.m.