Despite clinching both a postseason berth and their third straight NL East title on the same night on Tuesday, the Braves still have a little bit of work left to do for the remainder of the season. They’re currently the second seed in the National League bracket and they’ll be attempting to make sure that it stays that way as they continue their four-game series with the Marlins.
Tonight’s game should also serve as a final regular season tune-up for Max Fried before he pitches Game 1 of the Wild Card series. Fried will be looking to cap off what’s been a great season for him with another strong start. The one-start layoff wasn’t the trick to bringing back Fried’s velocity after he saw his velocity drop with every single start that he’s made this season. There’s a distinct possibility that this is just where Fried’s going to have to sit in terms of velocity, and there’s also the possibility that things could ramp up tonight. It really depends on what type of perspective you have, but I don’t blame anybody for feeling a little pessimistic when it comes to this aspect of Fried’s game.
With that being said, Fried has made up for the velocity drop by adapting and continuing to pitch well. He only gave up three hits and one run over five innings against the Mets during his last time out and that’s a continuation of what’s been like manna from heaven for the Braves: Starts that go five innings or longer. Fried has quite easily been the most reliable and consistent starter for Atlanta during this shortened sprint of a season and they’ll need him to continue to be that version of himself as they head into his final start of the season.
If the game goes as we all expect it to go, Fried’s probably going to be locked in a pitcher’s duel with Sixto Sanchez. While Miami’s budding ace finally had a bad outing for a change during his last start, Braves fans should already be well acquainted with what Sixto can do on the mound. The last time he saw the Braves, he went six innings, struck out six, and only allowed three hits and one walk on the way to keeping Atlanta off the scoreboard. I’d imagine that his start against Washington back on the 18th was just a blip on the radar and he’ll also be looking more like the usual version of himself for tonight. He’ll have to be since the Marlins are still very close to getting themselves into the postseason for the first time since 2003. Their magic number currently stands at three (four, if you listen to a certain radio dude in Miami), so Sixto and the rest of the Marlins are absolutely going to go full tilt tonight at the ballpark.
The Braves themselves have some things to play for outside of just seeding. Freddie Freeman has firmly placed himself in the NL MVP conversation with his efforts and if there’s going to be anybody who’s going to be completely locked in for the rest of the season, it’s going to be him. Freddie is also leading the league in batting average and even though BA as a stat has no-longer been the “be-all, end-all” of hitting stats for a long time now, the batting title still means a lot to the players and you can bet that Freddie’s going to be going for it. Marcell Ozuna took the NL lead in home runs last night, so he’ll be looking to stay on top of that particular leaderboard with another power surge tonight. Also, staying on the opposite side of the bracket from the Dodgers by securing the second seed in the NL would be a nice little bonus to help make any potential postseason run as efficient as possible, so the Braves will be playing to win as long as that’s in play.
While the Braves have locked up the division, there’s still a lot on the line going forward. If Max Fried and Sixto Sanchez live up to expectations, then it might be a while until we see some runs this evening. Still, it’s hard to see the Braves staying off the scoreboard all night, so this figures to be a game that’s going to be pretty good — right down to the final stages of the contest.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, September 23, 7:10 p.m. EST
Location: Truist Park, Atlanta, GA
TV: Fox Sports Southeast, MLB Network (Out-of-market only)
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network