Max Fried’s fifth start of the season didn’t go quite as well as his first four.
He pitched 5-1/3 innings, his shortest stint in a start this season, and allowed four runs, twice as many as in any other start, as the Braves lost to the Colorado Rockies on Friday night at SunTrust Park. The final score was 8-4 after four more runs scored against the Atlanta bullpen.
Result notwithstanding, catcher Tyler Flowers thought Fried pitched as well as in his previous starts.
“That was my conversation with him just a few minutes ago. He agreed,” Flowers said after the game. “He already had that assessment of himself, which is great. I mean, that’s the kind of confidence you’ve got to carry to be consistent at this level.”
The Braves lost despite a 4-for-4 night at the plate by Flowers, who hit two home runs. In his third career multi-homer game, his first since 2014, Flowers hit solo shots in the sixth and ninth innings.
“My last game, I was 0-for-4 with three punch-outs (Tuesday). It changes every day,” Flowers said. “Today felt good. My timing was pretty good today. That’s usually the majority of the battle.”
Still, the Braves lost for the seventh time in their past 10 games, dropping below .500 for the season at 12-13. They remain within 1-1/2 games of first place in the National League East, where no team is more than two games over .500. The Rockies won their seventh consecutive game at SunTrust Park.
Fried didn’t allow a run in the first three innings – in fact, he hasn’t allowed a run in the first three innings in any of his five starts – but his first two pitches of the fourth inning left the park. Back-to-back home runs to left field by Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado – Story’s on a changeup and Arenado’s on a curveball – were just the second and third homers of the season against Fried.
“The changeup to Story, that was up, it was a bad pitch, and he did what you’re supposed to do with it,” Fried said.
Story almost was robbed of his home run by Ronald Acuna, who soared above the left-field wall and got his glove on the ball but couldn’t hold on to what would have been a highlight-reel catch.
“From my angle, I thought he had it for a second,” Fried said. “He’s obviously so special he can make a play like that.”
The Rockies scored twice more against Fried in the sixth inning on three consecutive well-placed doubles, the first two by Story and Arenado, taking a 4-2 lead. The Braves trailed the rest of the way.
“I think it was just one of those days where it didn’t fall the right way,” Fried said.
The four earned runs were the same number he had allowed in 26 previous innings this season (including two relief appearances). On a positive note, he struck out a season-high eight and showed more of an improving slider to go with his fastball command and signature curveball.
“He has had a really good start,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He threw the ball really well tonight against a good-hitting ballclub. … You’re not going to be perfect, that’s for sure.”
Fried, who completed six innings in each of his first four starts and pitched into the seventh in one of them, was lifted with one out in the sixth, having allowed seven hits.
Fried entered the game with a 3-0 record and the second-lowest ERA in the major leagues behind only Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo, who lowered his to 1.23 with six scoreless innings against the Braves on Thursday night. When he left Friday’s game, Fried’s ERA had risen to a still-sterling 2.30.
Flowers got the Braves within 4-3 on his first home run of the night, but the Rockies immediately countered with a run off reliever Josh Tomlin for a 5-3 lead. Then struggling reliever Jesse Biddle struggled some more in the eighth inning, failing to record an out. He allowed three runs (two unearned) on three hits and a Josh Donaldson error as the Rockies blew the game open.