The big news for the day, before today’s game at the Cubs began, was the return of Max Fried to the mound after three months. Given that the team did not add a starter at the trade deadline, it’s crucial that Fried become a top of the line starter by the time October rolls around. Today would be the first step down that road. But I steeled myself not to expect too much. Surely, it will take Max a few games to work through the rust and get back to his Cy Young-caliber self.

Now that the game is in the books, it’s clear that I had not expected enough (and I’m sorry for calling you Shirley). Our Pontifex Maximus was nearly infallible; Varsity Fried was razor sharp. He commanded all his pitches—his heater hit 97, he threw that looping 72 mph curve in the zone when he needed to, his slider was excellent, and he mixed in a few terrific change-ups. I had almost forgotten how good Max Fried is, but his performance today reminded us all why he’s had the best ERA in the National League since 2020.

Through 4 innings, Max retired the Cubbies 12 up, 12 down, on 45 pitches, 30 strikes, with 6 K’s and 5 groundouts. Leading off the 5th, Bellinger stroked a ground ball up the middle to break up the perfect game, but Max promptly induced a 6-3 GIDP from Gomes. And with a strikeout of Suzuki, Fried had faced the minimum though 5, and had thrown only 59 pitches with 7 strikeouts. In the 6th Max allowed consecutive singles after 2 outs. Still, he completed six innings on just 72 pitches thrown, striking out 8 with no bases on balls.

On the offensive side of things, our guys started sluggishly. Through the first three innings, the Braves also went 9 up, 9 down. But then the Hammers did what they do. Of the next 10 batters, 8 had hits (6 of them for extra bases). Here’s how it went down in the top of the 4th: RAJ single, Ozzie double, Riley groundout rbi, Olson rbi double, Murphy two run homer, Ozuna homer to Waveland Ave., Rosario strikeout, Arcia double, MHII single rbi, Ronald rbi triple. Before you could turn around it was 7-0. The TV guys said this was the first time since 2002 that the Braves had at least 6 XBH in one inning.

And it turns out those 7 runs would be 6 more than they needed. But just for good measure, and because he is on one of those tears he always goes on this time of year, Riley added to the homer parade, with a solo shot in the 7th, to make the eventual final score 8-0.

Snit demonstrated discretion is the better part of valor and pulled Fried after 6, figuring 72 pitches was enough for his first game back. Nearly acquired Brad Hand, the increasingly dominant Joe Jimemez, and Colin McHugh completed the shutout, each tossing a scoreless inning.

The Braves finished with 11 hits, 3 by Acuña (with 2 of those in one inning) and one each by everyone else in the lineup save Rosario (EDIT–my bad–Roger points out in comments that Eddie also had a hit–so all nine starters hit safely). Comic relief came in the 9th, as Tucker Barnhart came on to save wear and tear on their real pitchers. He delivered 38 mph floaters that looked like slow pitch softball—and retired the Braves on six pitches. MVPRAJ did single off Barnhart. Harris, Albies, and Riley were each too anxious and made quick outs.

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On this date in 1990, I told my then 4 year old son that the Braves had traded Dale Murphy. He didn’t really follow the team yet, but he knew that Murph was his favorite player. He took the news pretty hard, and couldn’t hold back the tears. That same day I had to inform him that my grandmother, his great-grandmother, had passed away. That news did not really faze him. Besides not yet understanding death, he didn’t really know her—she had been in ill health for some time. Murph, on the other hand, was on our TV every day and seemed like part of the family.

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Tomorrow afternoon at the Friendly Confines, the Braves try to make it 7 of their last 8. Bryce Elder against Javier Assad. I don’t know anything about the latter, but I like him better than Bashar and Hafez. Still, let’s keep it rolling and score at least 8, which is just about our average runs per game over the past week.

Transaction a Day AA

Braves Saturday Lineup