The Braves may have won the battle in Game 1, cruising to a 6-2 victory. But if they end up losing this series in close fashion, we may look back on Game 1 as the day they lost the war. Charlie Morton, who has been the ace of Atlanta’s staff for most of the season, broke his fibula in the second inning and removed himself from the game in the third. He will miss the remainder of the season, which is a devastating blow to a Braves rotation that was already thin after losing Huascar Ynoa during the NLCS.
Thankfully, the bullpen came in and did their job, holding Houston to just two runs over 6.2 innings. That’s pretty remarkable when you consider Atlanta’s relief core was labeled their Achilles heel all season. But the Braves bullpen found their footing in August and September, and their hot hands have continued to rain hell on opponents throughout the postseason. Still, if the Astros are going to break through and win this series, their best bet is to do it against Atlanta’s relievers. They are a team that gets better each time they see a particular pitcher, and they saw all of the Braves’ best bullpen arms last night, meaning it is critical that Max Fried turn in a vintage performance in Game 2.
Fried had a shaky start to the season, and there’s reason to believe it was injury-related. He boasted an 11.45 ERA after his first three outings before hitting the injured list, but since then, he’s been nearly untouchable, posting a 2.44 ERA in his final 25 starts to end the season. Fried was also the best pitcher in baseball since the All-Star break, going 8-2 with a 1.74 ERA in his last 14 starts.
The postseason has mostly been more of the same for the Braves’ second ace. He completely shut down the Brewers in a critical Game 2 on the road, tossing six innings of shutout ball to go along with nine strikeouts. Fried then gutted out a performance against the Dodgers even though he didn’t have his best stuff, allowing just two runs over six innings. However, he did have his first slip up since the All-Star break his last time out — Game 5 of the NLCS. Fried only made it through 4.2 innings, allowing five earned runs in a loss.
There’s nobody the Braves should want to have on the mound in a critical game other than Max Fried. He’s not the type of pitcher that will blow batters away and record ten strikeouts. In fact, he didn’t record a single double-digit strikeout game all season. However, Fried is the type of pitcher that will give the Braves length, which is what the team desperately needs tonight. Twice in the final six weeks of the season, Fried threw a complete game in under 100 pitchers — also known as a Maddux. He isn’t afraid to attack even the best lineup, and that’s what the Braves need tonight if they want to win this series.
Thanks for reading about how the Braves need length out of Max Fried in Game 2. If you liked this article, check out Chase’s recent piece on who might replace Charlie Morton on the roster.