LOS ANGELES – Dodger Stadium is a difficult place for visiting teams. It becomes even tougher when the home team, which has been good for years, has been on a tear.

Despite both of those factors, the Braves on Friday won again here – this time by a score of 6-3. Max Fried pitched like an ace and his relentless offense once again did its job.

Five observations:

1. Dodger Stadium is an estimated 15 miles from Harvard-Westlake School, which is where Fried attended high school. He grew up a Dodgers fan, someone who spent many nights listening to the late, great Vin Scully.

It might be no coincidence that Fried – who’s been candid about feeling a bit off recently – turned superhuman for this start back home.

“It’s always nice to kind of have family in the stands and be able to see them, and have friends (here) and all of that,” Fried said. “But it’s a really good team over there, so you know you have to be sharp, be on your game and make some good, quality pitches or they’re going to be able to just get a bunch of runs on you real quick. Knew what I was up against and I knew that I had to make some good, quality pitches at the right times.”

But the homecoming was only part of this. Fried looked more like himself than in his last few starts.

Fried held the Dodgers to two hits over seven scoreless innings. He struck out 10 – his fourth career double-digit strikeout game, and his first since Aug. 30, 2019. He dominated his hometown team.

“It’s big,” he said of the confidence gained from a start like this. “Definitely feel like I had been going through the motions at times, and not really been as sharp and focused on making pitches and kind of winning the ballgame the way that I was today. It was definitely kind of a jolt, and really gonna try to use this as a springboard and hopefully the rest of the season, I can continue going this way and finish strong, and see what happens in the postseason.”

On Friday, 52,436 fans formed a sellout crowd. Usually one of the loudest environments in baseball, this crowd never had much reason to erupt because Fried quieted the Dodgers. This was his longest of 11 starts this season. It also came after four starts in which he felt that, for the most part, he could’ve been better.

Friday was the best it gets.

Fried has made four starts at Dodger Stadium in his career. In the first one, which came in 2019, he allowed four runs over an inning.

Since then?

Two earned runs in 20 innings pitched across three starts, and no runs in 14 frames in his last two starts here.

Everything considered, Friday was probably Fried’s best start of the season.

“He looked like himself,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “I think the biggest thing was, during the game, his thoughts were correct versus his last few starts. I think he was very comfortable today. I think he’s right where he needs to be.”

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried throws to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

2. This season, the Braves are accomplishing many feats, small and large, to distinguish themselves as one of the best teams in franchise history.

Here’s another: Thursday and Friday are the first time the Braves have won back-to-back games at Dodger Stadium since July 20-21 of 2017.

This organization has grown in many ways since that time.

“I think a big one is just the belief in our talent and the hard work and preparation that we have,” Fried said. “We believe that we can play with anyone, and it’s just going out there and proving it day in and day out.”

At that time, Alex Anthopoulos – now Atlanta’s president of baseball operations – worked in the Dodgers’ front office. Only Fried, Ozzie Albies and A.J. Minter were on the 2017 Braves, who were managed by Brian Snitker.

Those Braves featured Freddie Freeman and Dansby Swanson. Ronald Acuña Jr. had not yet debuted. Spencer Strider was a freshman at Clemson, and Michael Harris II was in high school.

The Braves have had their troubles in Los Angeles over the years. From July 22, 2017 to April 18, 2022, they lost 11 of 12 games here.

3. At his best, Julio Urias is one of the game’s top starters. Usually, it’s difficult to string together hits against guys like him, which is why the Braves’ construction is so crucial.

They can hit the long ball. And they can launch a lot of them.

“It’s good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s a big-time guy. If he puts one in the middle of the plate, hopefully you can do something with it.”

Facing Urias, who didn’t have his best stuff, the Braves blasted three home runs – one from d’Arnaud in the second inning, another from Acuña in the third and one more from Marcell Ozuna in the fourth.

“I think we were fortunate to get a couple more mistakes than he normally leaves tonight,” d’Arnaud said. “He’s such a great pitcher.”

These were solo shots, but they helped give Fried some cushion. And soon, the Braves added on nicely.

They tagged Urias for five runs on nine hits over five frames. Then they added another run in the eighth.

Through two games, the Braves have scored 14 runs off Dodgers pitching.

4. In the eighth inning, the Dodgers put two men on with one out. They still trailed by six runs.

Apparently, they believed the deficit to be too much to overcome.

They pinch-hit for Mookie Betts, a National League MVP candidate. They also had a pinch-hitter in the on-deck circle to take the spot of Freeman, another contender for the award.

This seemed like the Dodgers conceding defeat.

But ...

“Anybody that comes out of that dugout with a bat is dangerous,” Snitker said.

The evidence: Kolten Wong – who hit for Freeman – launched a three-run homer off Pierce Johnson in his first at-bat with the Dodgers.

Johnson couldn’t escape the inning. With two outs and two on, the Braves went to Michael Tonkin to face Chris Taylor.

In perhaps the game’s biggest situation – and maybe Tonkin’s most important spot of the season – the right-hander struck out Taylor to preserve Atlanta’s three-run lead.

“Those are the situations you want to be in,” Tonkin said. “To go out there and get the job done, it’s special.”

What made it even sweeter: Tonkin was born in Glendale, California – which is in Los Angeles County – and attended games at Dodger Stadium growing up.

5. Before these two games, the Dodgers had not lost consecutive games since July 26 and July 28 (there was an off day in between). Entering this series, the Dodgers were 24-4 in August.

The Braves have made an early statement.

They surely want more. Ensuring a split here is nice, but three of four – or even a sweep – would be terrific.

Stat to know

6 - The Braves are six games ahead of the Dodgers in the standings, which is important because these teams – who began the series with baseball’s best records – are still playing for home-field advantage in the postseason. The Braves winning the first two games means that, regardless of how the next two play out, Atlanta will leave Los Angeles with at least a four-game lead over the Dodgers – the Braves won’t lose any ground.


“To have a bonafide ace, a Game 6 World Series winner, that’s huge for any team. And for us, with how dangerous our lineup can be, to have him back to the way that we all know him as is unique and very good for us.” - d’Arnaud on Fried

Up next

Braves right-hander Bryce Elder will start Saturday’s game, which begins at 9:10 p.m. ET.

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