Did the Braves make a mistake with their outfield this winter?

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In a game that once again featured an offensive rally in the opening inning, as well as some much-needed success for the struggling Marcell Ozuna (3 for 4, HR, 3 RBI), the Braves couldn’t out-punch Adam Duvall and the Marlins on Tuesday, dropping Game 2 of the series by a whopping six runs. Overall, Miami’s offense finished with 17 hits and scored multiple runs in four different innings. The Braves tried their best to keep up, but inconsistent work from the bullpen continues to put immense pressure on Atlanta’s lineup. Now residing in fourth-place in the division, the Braves are two games back from the first-place Mets. 

 

Another worst for Fried

Max Fried has performed at such a level of excellence during these last few seasons that it was truly unreal to watch what took place on Tuesday night. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Fried pitched the very worst outing of his five-year MLB career, allowing eight runs (seven earned) from nine hits — including two home runs — in four innings. Against the Marlins of all teams, who, coming into the game, had the major’s fifth-worst wRC+ (80), the 27-year-old lefty looked so… hittable… and for 86 excruciating pitches… Fried labored. 

 

Most of the time a career-worst outing shouldn’t be too big of a deal, right? They happen from time to time, and even the most dominant pitchers in the game toss a stinker. But for Fried, this is his second worst-career outing in a row, coming just a week after he barely got through two innings against the Nationals. I’m not saying two bad outings is proof that Fried is done. This is still the guy that literally carried the Braves starting staff last season and finished fifth in the National League Cy Young vote. However, Fried’s curveball is getting hammered. Opposing batters aren’t fooled by it at all, and in his loss on Tuesday, Miami had an average exit-velocity of 96.6 MPH against the offering, not to mention only two swings and misses. 

UPDATE: To make matters worse, following Tuesday’s game it was reported that Fried had a precautionary MRI on his right hamstring.

The word precautionary makes this not very concerning so hopefully nothing to worry about. 

 

Not cool, Adam…

So of course we have to talk about Duvall, who had four hits on Tuesday, including two hard ones versus Fried’s curve — a home run hit at 103.3 MPH in the third inning, followed by a 96.6-MPH double in the fourth. I’m not sure how close Fried and Duvall were back when they played together, but you have to imagine that friendship is over after what Duvall did to not only Max but all of Atlanta’s pitchers. Duvall finished the night with a career-best seven RBI, including a 4 for 5 line to go along with those aforementioned extra-base hits. And this is after Duvall homered and reached base three times in Game 1 on Monday.

https://twitter.com/BallySportsFL/status/1382125841593827330?s=19

 

Although, Duvall’s performance on Tuesday really shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was perfectly adequate both at the plate and on the field as a Brave last season, and his pop has always been well documented. If you recall, the Braves had every opportunity in the world to re-sign the 32-year-old outfielder this past offseason, but with the emergence of prospect Cristian Pache as well as the pressure to bring back Ozuna, the team chose not to. Duvall signed with Miami on a one-year deal that’ll cost the team just $2 million in 2021. The Marlins can either exercise a mutual option for next season, which comes at a price tag of $7 million, or pay a $3-million buy-out. 

But let’s be honest. Braves Country would’ve rioted if GM Alex Anthopoulos chose to re-sign Duvall and let Ozuna walk this past winter. I know (logically) he could’ve just as easily signed both Ozuna AND Duvall, but after investing that money in Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton, it was evident that bringing back both sluggers was out of the question (even if we don’t necessarily agree). 

So I understand the decision. Ozuna was the big ticket item, and the hype surrounding Pache was just too much to simply ignore. Most of us asked for this — and by this, I mean Pache as a starter in the outfield and Ozuna on a multi-year deal. But it is hard to feel pleased with the results so far as Pache continues to struggle against big league pitching. Through Tuesday, the young outfielder is hitting just .133, including 13 strikeouts and just one walk. He’s a mess at the plate, and there doesn’t seem to be an approach or a plan when he walks up there.

And to make matters worse, Pache left Tuesday’s game against the Marlins and is headed to the IL with a groin strain. Not good. 

 

 

More from Acuna!

For the fifth game in a row, Acuna finishes with a hit on Tuesday, going 1 for 4 with a walk and a strikeout. His slash-line is up to .429/.490/.881 (1.371 OPS) through his first 11 games this season, including a ridiculous .578 AVG during his current hitting streak. The man just keeps hitting. 

 

Next up: Hopefully, Wednesday is a better day for the Braves as veteran righty Charlie Morton will take the bump against Marlins righty Nick Neidert. Morton was sharp in his last outing, allowing just one run from four hits and striking out seven against the Phillies. Given he spent a lot of time in the American League, many of Miami’s hitters have yet to face Morton, and the ones that have, haven’t gotten much of a look either. The Braves really shouldn’t be losing series to teams like the Marlins, so winning the next two to at least tie this four-game set would be ideal. 

 

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