The Braves have not had too many easy wins this season. They certainly have not had too many back-to-back easy wins this season. On Friday night, though, they cruised to a second consecutive not-too-stressful victory, as the bats teed off on Carlos Martinez while Max Fried cruised through seven breezy frames.
The only part of this game that may have caused any consternation for Braves fans came in the top of the first. Max Fried was not quite settled in across his first two batters, as Tommy Edman roped on a double on a full-count inside fastball and Dylan Carson hung in for ten pitches before finally grounding out to third. Edman moved up a base on the play and scored on Paul Goldschmidt’s groundout to third; Austin Riley chose not to contest the run at home, giving St. Louis their only tally of the game. Fried completely bamboozled Nolan Arenado with breaking stuff to end the inning.
Carlos Martinez had a terrible 2020, and his 2021 has been hit-or-miss at best. Suffice to say, this outing did not improve his season by any stretch of the imagination. His night started by grazing Ronald Acuña Jr. with a pitch. Freddie Freeman then barreled a ball into left that may have been a homer under other circumstances, but hey, y’know, it’s a different baseball and all, and thus it just went for a flyout. Acuña was then thrown out trying to steal second, which was momentarily annoying because Ozzie Albies doubled thereafter. But, a walk and a weak flare to right off Austin Riley’s bat tied the game. Martinez struck out Dansby Swanson to end the inning.
Fried issued a one-out walk to Yadier Molina in the second, but still faced the minimum thanks to a pickoff later in the frame. The Braves then really went to work on Martinez. The bottom of the second started like this:
Then, with two outs, Acuña walked, stole second (successfully this time), and scored on Freeman’s single. Actually, it’s possible that Acuña could have been thrown out at the plate had Molina actually tried to tag him, but instead the Redbirds catcher threw unsuccessfully to second as Freeman slid in safely. Albies then followed with this monster blast:
Just like that, 5-1 Braves.
The Braves got two walks and a single in the third, but couldn’t score due to a double play, and Fried’s own groundout with two outs and two on. Fried walked the leadoff batter in the fourth, but erased him on a first-pitch double play off Arenado’s bat — Arenado was just utterly perplexed by Fried all game.
The bottom of the fourth started with Martinez plunking Acuña again. The Braves’ phenom came into this game having never been retired by Martinez across six PAs; he reached base via two hit-by-pitches and a walk in this game as well. Freeman singled to put runners at the corners, and then Albies blooped one into left. Freeman made it to third on the play as Acuña scored, and Albies was eventually (after replay review) ruled safe at second. That was it for Martinez, but not for the Braves, who scored a seventh run on Abraham Almonte’s single off Jake Woodford, and then an eighth run on Riley’s sacrifice fly. A single and a walk loaded the bases, and while Guilllermo Heredia popped out, Woodford then walked Max Fried for perhaps the ultimate ignominy: a bases-loaded, RBI-yielding free pass to a pitcher. Acuña didn’t add on by grounding out for the inning’s final out, but the Braves were rolling at this point.
And really, that was it. Max Fried kept carving up the Cardinals, allowing just one more baserunner over his next three frames. He finished the game with that one run allowed in seven innings, along with two hits, two walks, and six strikeouts. It was a nice turnaround for him after allowing two homers in one start to the Marlins his last time out. Edgar Santana and Jacob Webb closed out the pitching ledger for the Braves, with each reliever allowing a lone baserunner in his inning of work. The Braves didn’t do much of anything offensively, either, after the fourth, as Woodford threw a scoreless fifth and Wade LeBlanc held them scoreless in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. The Braves did get another scoring situation in the seventh as Heredia connected for a leadoff double and Acuña later walked, but Freeman and Albies couldn’t bring them home.
Acuña finished this game having reached base four times without the benefit of a hit; he was also the only member of the starting lineup to go hitless. Albies finished a triple shy of the cycle. I’m also just going to repeat it, because it was bizarre: Max Fried drew a bases-loaded walk.
With the win, the Braves improve to 32-35 and pick up a game on the Mets, who were somehow held scoreless by Erick Fedde (?!) and then lost when Edwin Diaz went walk-single-walkoff single in the ninth without retiring a batter. They’ll need to keep it rolling tomorrow as Drew Smyly faces off against Adam Wainwright to keep their postseason hopes growing rather than diminishing.