In recent history, West Coast trips have not been very fun for the Atlanta Braves, and after dropping the first two games of their set at Dodger Stadium, it doesn’t look like this trip is going to be much of an exception. Drew Smyly was hammered on Monday and the Braves lost the lead and tie late on Tuesday, wiping out some of the high that came with beating the team with MLB’s best record in a series last weekend. With the division lead down to 2.5 games, the Braves will set their sights on salvaging a game in a Battle of Maxes: Fried versus Scherzer.
Weirdly enough, Fried and Scherzer have never dueled before, at least not as far as I can tell. In any case, though, both are having real good seasons, so on paper, this looks like it could be another low-scoring affair. Fried comes into the game with 2.6 fWAR in 124 2⁄3 innings, along with a neat-for-once 84 ERA-/82 FIP-/85 xFIP- line. After his complete game shutout of the Orioles on August 20, he came back and helped the Braves stifle the Giants by giving up four runs (three earned) in five frames with a 5/0 K/BB ratio and a homer allowed. That start extended his current stretch of six straight good-to-great outings — while Fried’s 2021 season did not start out smoothly, this consistently effective stretch is pretty much the longest of his career to date, and the Braves will likely need him to push it to seven games in a row to have a chance in this one.
The 37-year-old Scherzer, meanwhile, just keeps on truckin’ at this point. He already has a gaudy 3.7 fWAR on the season in 140 innings, and has benefited from some run prevention-aiding fortune as well: 60 ERA-/76 FIP-/78 xFIP-. In five starts since being traded to LA, Scherzer’s only improved, with a small-sample-but-still-insane 39 ERA-/46 FIP-/65 xFIP-. The Dodgers have won all five games that Scherzer has started for them, and his worst K/BB ratio in any of the games was 7/2. Hope the Braves remember to put their hitting shoes on, I guess.
Scherzer hasn’t actually faced the Braves since his first game of the season, which was bizarre: in six innings, he struck out nine and walked none, but gave up four solo homers and just one other hit — the Braves lost the game after a late-inning collapse. It was the first time Scherzer had given up four longballs in a start since 2016.
The Braves’ playoff odds have taken a minor tumble recently, dropping from nearly 90 percent on August 27 to slightly under a three-in-four chance as they enter play today. That has less to do with their own struggles (going 2-3 against the Giants and Dodgers) than the Phillies’ five-game winning streak in that span. Still, a win tonight would give the Braves a pretty gladdening split against the apparent NL West tandem of behemoths. We’ll see what happens.
Atlanta Braves @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
10:10 pm EDT
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Bally Sports South
Radio: 680 AM/93.7 FM The Fan, WNNX 100.5, Braves Radio Network
XM Radio: Ch. 89