In an NL Cy Young race that is wide open, Spencer Strider should have done enough to win the award. He very well could lead the league in wins, strikeouts, strikeout rate, FIP, and WHIP, but after another stinker on Wednesday night against the Cardinals in which he failed to make it out of the third inning and allowed six runs to cross the plate, that dream is now just that… a dream.
It would take a couple of miraculous performances down the stretch for Strider to insert his name back into the conversation, but that really shouldn’t be his primary focus. What he needs to be working on is turning these kinds of abysmal performances where he doesn’t have his best stuff into competitive outings, just like we saw Max Fried do last night. If he can accomplish that more often than not, there will be plenty of Cy Young awards waiting in his future.
Thursday night, Max Fried cruised through the first inning, and the Braves bats gave him some cushion with a three-run bottom half. However, Fried would find trouble in the second, and the lead would quickly dissipate. A couple of singles and a walk loaded the bases, which was followed by a hit-by-pitch and another single to tie the game. Fried would get out of the inning without any further damage, but it looked as if the Braves could be heading for another shootout with the Cardinals for the third night in a row.
But this is why Max Fried is one of the best in the business. He doesn’t seem to approach the game from an individual performance perspective. What happened in the previous inning isn’t going to carry over to the next. His primary focus each time out is to give the team the best chance to win, and in a tie game, Fried did what he does best.
The 29-year-old lefty retired the Cardinals in order over the next two innings. He found a little bit of trouble in the fifth after a couple of two-out singles but was able to get Nolan Arenado to fly out to prevent any damage. The Braves would regain the lead in the bottom half of the inning, thanks to a homer off the bat of Matt Olson, and Fried would deliver a critical shutdown inning in the sixth to end his night.
That’s when the Braves took control, scoring two more in the sixth and another two in the seventh, allowing them to cruise to a much-needed win over the Red Birds and avoid a sweep.
Last night was vintage Max Fried. Sure, he didn’t throw seven scoreless innings with 10 punch outs like he did last week against the Dodgers in one of the more impressive performances by any pitcher this season. That was brilliant, but what really makes Fried one of the best pitchers on the planet is he is unflappable.
Every pitcher is going to have bad days. Sometimes it is poor luck; sometimes you just don’t have your best stuff. However, Max Fried continually finds ways to turn those bad days into competitive outings, giving his team a chance to win every time he toes the rubber. It’s why, despite not having a 100 MPH fastball, he hasn’t had an ERA over 3.04 since 2019. The consistency Fried brings to the table is unmatched, and if Spencer Strider ever wants to reach his full potential, all he has to do is take a look at his veteran teammate.
Sometimes, Spencer Strider is too nasty for his own good. He’s capable of racking up three strikeouts in the blink of an eye, and it seems to cause him to try and get a little too perfect when he finds himself in a jam. That’s where things often spiral out of control. A one or two-run inning turns into three or four, and next thing you know, he’s out of the game and the Braves find themselves behind the eight-ball.
Strider has some of the best stuff we’ve ever seen in the game of baseball, and he has the work ethic to become a perennial Cy Young award winner. But sometimes we have to remind ourselves that he’s a 24-year-old who is completing his first full season at the major-league level. Strider will learn from these experiences, and when it all comes together, it’s going to be special.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire