Things are beginning to get real in the worst division in baseball — also known as the NL East. The Mets continue to struggle, even against the lowly Marlins, while the Braves and Phillies seem to be finding their stride a bit in the second half of the season. Philadelphia hung on to win last night against the Nationals, putting them just two games back of New York for first place in the division, and Atlanta is right behind them after Max Fried dominated the Cardinals to begin a short road trip.
The Braves play just three games in St. Louis before returning to Truist Park, and things couldn’t have started any better for them against the Redbirds. Before Fried even touched the rubber, he had a five-run lead, and it might have been an even bigger margin had Kevan Smith not grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. Sorry, I had to mention it because, at this point, it’s pretty ludicrous that he’s getting starts on ANY major-league ball club, but especially one that is in a tight division race. Regardless, those five runs were plenty enough for Fried, who tossed six innings of shutout ball and only allowed four hits before giving way to Jesse Chavez.
Chavez, who has been one of the pleasant surprises of the second half of the season, found a little bit of trouble in the seventh but was able to escape unharmed. Josh Tomlin was the only Braves pitcher to give up a run, but by that time, it was too little too late for the Cardinals, as Atlanta took Game 1 of the series by a score of 6-1.
The win continues the Braves’ remarkable streak of games in which they haven’t won or lost two in a row. They will have a chance to break that trend tonight with a win in St Louis. Drew Smyly receives the ball for the Braves against the newly acquired J.A. Happ for the Cardinals. However, despite the Braves’ current run of mediocrity, it hasn’t stopped them from picking up ground in the division. After last night’s win, they sit just 2.5 games back, and their upcoming schedule presents a golden opportunity for them to inch even closer over the next couple of weeks.
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