Max Fried served as a reliever during the first week of the season. He made his first start on Thursday night, as the Braves went for a sweep of the reeling Cubs. It will be impossible for Brian Snitker to keep him out of the rotation any longer.
On a miserable night for baseball, Fried kept the fans that stuck it out through the rain entertained for six refreshing innings. The former first-round pick of the Padres set down the first 17 batters he faced. His velocity sat in the mid-90s with consistency and topped out at 97. Fried didn’t even have to rely on his pattened curveball that often, but it was filthy when he showed it. Even his changeup was working at the top of its game, as the Cubs rarely made solid contact until Mark Zagunis’ single to break up Fried’s perfect game in the sixth.
After the single, Albert Almora Jr. grounded out to shortstop to end the inning and Fried’s night. He threw 86 pitches of one-hit baseball with no walks and five strikeouts. It was unquestionably the best performance from a Braves’ pitcher this season, and it was the first time a starter made an out past the fifth inning.
It took a little while for the Braves to get their bats going on Yu Darvish. They finally did in the fourth when Brian McCann singled (to the wall), driving in Nick Markakis. Somewhat shockingly, Joe Maddon went to his bullpen with no outs in the fifth after Darvish walked two. Darvish was only at 70 pitches, and the Cubs bullpen is stunting an ERA over eight through five games. The decision came back to bite Maddon, as the Braves went on to score five runs in the fifth, highlighted by a Nick Markakis three-run double, scoring Donaldson, Freeman, and Acuña.
Speaking of Nick Markakis; the 35-year old went a perfect 5-5 for only the second time in his career. He had five RBIs and three doubles. Who was complaining about signing him to a one-year deal worth $6 million guaranteed?
The Braves would run away with this one, winning 9-4. The Cubs only runs came off Chad Sobotka, who gave up home runs to Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. Dansby Swanson stayed hot with two hits and a walk. He’s slashing .353/.478/.765 in the first six games. Ozzie Albies also continued his torrid start with two more hits, but his average actually went down to .478.
A.J. Minter was activated off of the Injured List and relieved Chad Sobotka in the ninth. He got off to a shaky start walking the first two batters he faced but bounced back with a groundball and a strikeout to end the game.
Kevin Gausman is scheduled to make his season debut tomorrow night in the series-opener against the Fish.
Mike Foltyewicz had a rehab start in Gwinnett Thursday night. He was flawless in five innings, allowing no hits and walking two. He tossed 56 pitches. The Braves plan for him to start in Gwinnett one more time. Providing everything goes well, he should be in Atlanta by mid-April.