Atlanta Braves left-hander Max Fried made his first start since May on Friday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs (GameTracker). He had previously missed close to three months because of a strained left forearm.
Fried showed little sign of rust against what had been a red-hot Cubs lineup. He fired off six shutout innings, holding Chicago to three hits and no walks. Fried also struck out eight batters and saw his fastball average 94.7 mph, or a full tick higher than his previous seasonal average. He generated nine whiffs on 33 swings, with four of those coming on his fastball variants.
Fried, 29, made five starts earlier in the year before going on the shelf. In 26 innings, he had accumulated a 2.08 ERA (221 ERA+) and a 4.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Fried, of course, finished second in National League Cy Young Award balloting last winter.
"I felt sharper than expected. Had a lot of nervous energy. Just was looking forward to this day for a long time," Fried told reporters, including Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Fried's afternoon was made easier thanks to the run support provided by Atlanta's lineup. The Braves were up 8-0 at the time of his departure, due almost entirely to a seven-run fourth inning that saw them launch back-to-back home runs and continue their recent mastery of Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks. That score would hold as the final.
Take a look at Hendricks' last four regular season starts against the Braves:
- Friday: four innings, seven runs
- June 19, 2022: 4 1/3 innings, six runs
- April 28, 2021: 3 2/3 innings, seven runs
- April 18, 2021: four innings, seven runs
To think, Hendricks entered Friday in the midst of his best season since 2020. In his first 13 starts, he had compiled a 3.49 ERA (130 ERA+) and a 4.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The Braves and Cubs will continue their potential playoff preview on Saturday afternoon before putting a bow on the series come Sunday.