Is the sky falling? On a sun-soaked Thursday in the nation’s capital, the Atlanta Braves sent its unquestioned ace, Max Fried to the mound to open the season for the third straight season, and 43 pitches into the game, some might think the sky is indeed falling.

Fried, who finished second in the National League Cy Young voting in 2022, was dominant through Spring Training, and was equally dominant through 3 1/3 innings in a 7-2 Braves victory over the Nationals.

The high-sky forced the Braves to botch two pop-ups in Fried’s first 13 pitches, one of which came home to roost in the bottom of the second, but it was a routine ground ball to first that has Braves Country wondering if the sky is indeed falling.

Dom Smith rolled one over to first baseman, Matt Olson, who kicked the ball initially and then under-hand flipped the ball to Fried who pounced off the mound to record the out. Fried appeared to get off the mound with no trouble, but saw Olson boot the ball and accelerated for the bag to take the throw. It wasn’t until he had caught the ball and was returning to the mound that he reached behind him to feel his left hamstring. One warm-up toss later and his day was finished.

What is it with the Braves and pitches covering first base? On Aug. 3, 2020, Mike Soroka hopped off the mound to field a ball when he tore his achilles tendon. While Fried’s injury is likely nothing compared to Soroka’s achilles tear, the injury feels significant today. He had the second lowest road ERA (2.55) in 2022, the second lowest ERA (2.48) and WHIP (1.01), while also having the second lowest exit velo allowed in the NL at 86.2. Fried and teammate, Spencer Strider, are early season favorites to contend for the NL Cy Young award.

After the game, Braves manager Brian Snitker said Fried will miss his next start and is ;likely headed for the IL. Fried is also reported to have said the injury feels similar to when he strained his right hamstring while running the bases in his third start in 2021. That injury that resulted in being on the shelf for three weeks. Time will tell who makes Fried’s next couple of starts in the Atlanta rotation, but thankfully this is game one of 162 and the sky is not falling.

The loss of an ace would be debilitating for most organizations, but thanks to the work of rookies Jared Shuster (who is set to start Sunday) and Dylan Dodd (who will make his first start in St. Louis on Tuesday), the Braves have pitching depth in Gwinnett in Bryce Elder, Ian Anderson, and Michael Soroka.

I’m anxious for Soroka to be ready to roll, but think it will be Elder – he simply knows how to grind!

Who do you think make Fried’s next start and why?

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