LOS ANGELES — Max Fried was clearly better than the results from this season’s first two starts indicated. But it will be hard for him to be much better than he was while helping the Braves bounce back with a 3-1 win over the Dodgers on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, snapping LA’s seven-game winning streak.
“That’s probably as good as I’ve seen him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s been good all year. He hasn’t had the results. But his stuff has been good all year. Tonight, he just took it to another level.”
Just like he did last year, when he started slow and then led the Majors with a 1.74 ERA after the All-Star break. After helping clinch a fourth straight division title with late-season gems in San Francisco and San Diego, he capped a memorable postseason by throwing six scoreless innings in the decisive Game 6 of the World Series.
“He’s a top-tier pitcher in this league and I don’t say that lightly,” said Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who provided the Braves an early lead with a second-inning solo shot off Walker Buehler.
Fried proved perfect through five innings, faced the minimum through six and ended up allowing just two hits over seven scoreless innings against a powerful Dodgers lineup. The left-hander has now completed at least seven scoreless innings in three of his past six starts dating back to last year.
This marked just the second time the Southern California native has allowed two hits or less over at least seven scoreless innings.
“He’s got really good stuff,” Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor said. “We have a lot of experience with him. He’s got that good fastball life and he throws that slider off of it. Tonight, he actually had his changeup working, too, which made him tough, especially because that pitch kind of goes away from you where everything else is kind of coming in for a righty.”
Making this masterpiece even more memorable was the fact it came at Dodger Stadium, a place he frequently visited during his childhood and a place where he has often struggled during his big league career.
Fried entered this outing 0-3 with a 5.55 ERA in five career starts, including the postseason, at Dodger Stadium. The most recent was Game 5 of last year’s NLCS, when the Dodgers tagged him for five runs in just 4 2/3 innings.
“It was nice to have a good one here, I’ve had some rough ones,” Fried said. “Just to get a win, that was my goal today.”
Fried retired the first 15 batters he faced before seeing his perfect game end with Hanser Alberto’s leadoff single in the sixth. Alberto’s sinking liner came off the bat at 98.4 mph and fell in front of right fielder Eddie Rosario.
Trea Turner’s two-out dribbler in the seventh inning accounted for the only other hit surrendered by Fried. The mis-hit single came off the bat at 60.3 mph and was snared by a diving Fried, who made an unsuccessful attempt to flip the ball from his glove to first baseman Matt Olson. The Atlanta lefty then ended his 93-pitch effort with a four-pitch strikeout from Justin Turner.
“This is the first time I’ve seen him have all five [pitches] working,” by Arnaud said. “He was throwing 97 [mph with his four-seam], his cutter was breaking a foot, sometimes two feet. He was throwing sinkers at 95 mph. You have to respect that too. Then he was throwing changeups today. It was fun.”
Fried certainly had more fun than he had while producing a 5.73 ERA in his first two starts. But that stat was simply the product of a misleading small sample. According to Statcast, through his first two outings he had a 2.88 expected ERA, which accounts for both quantity and quality of contact.
Through Tuesday night’s outing, Fried had surrendered an average exit velocity of 84.3 mph. The only pitcher to surrender a lower average is the Reds’ Nick Lodolo (80.3 mph). But it should be pointed out Lodolo has made just two starts.
“First two outings, I felt like I was throwing the ball pretty well,” Fried said. “There just happened to be some balls that didn’t find the gloves. Tonight, we made some really nice plays and the ball found the gloves.”
Getting the save for Fried was long time Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, who worked the ninth inning against his former team. Jansen retired the side on 12 pitches, getting form Braves superstar Freddie Freeman to fly out to end it.