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Late offense backs Max Fried’s strong performance as Braves cut magic number to 1

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Atlanta can clinch their fourth straight division title with a win Wednesday.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Casey Sykes/Getty Images

Another superb pitching performance by Max Fried has the Atlanta Braves knocking on the doorstep of a fourth straight division title. Fried allowed two runs, although just one was earned, over seven strong innings to go along with six strikeouts. Atlanta’s offense blew the game open in the seventh thanks to a two-run double by Austin Riley and a two-run single by Dansby Swanson.

“I think winning the first game is huge. In our situation right now winning this game is even more huge to just trim the number,” Brian Snitker said of taking the first two games of the series. “Still gotta go out and fight and whatever to win another game, but you know it’s big to win these first two games.”

Fried had his 17 inning scoreless streak snapped in the second inning where he allowed three straight singles. He retired 10 straight hitters before Odubel Herrera led off the sixth with a double. His performance along with that of Charlie Morton on Tuesday set the tone for the series. Herrera scored on a ground out to cut Atlanta’s lead to 3-2. Fried went back out and retired the side in order in the seventh before the offense broke the game open.

“Honestly he was probably spent after the sixth and he went out in the seventh and had the 1-2-3 inning,” Snitker said. “Just shows you the pitchability of this kid and what he can do because I guarantee he was spent but he had pitches and he went out and made pitches.”

Fried said after the game that Morton’s performance and winning the opener took some of the pressure off for Wednesday.

“I think it alleviated any kind of stress or anxiety coming into it,” Fried said. “Just knowing that he went out there and laid everything on the line and obviously had such a good start. I kind of just want to follow that up. Just wanted to be able to go out there and keep us in the game knowing that this lineup could explode at any second. I just wanted to put us in a good position to win and the guys really picked us up and it was a huge win.”

The Braves broke the game open in the seventh against the Phillies’ bullpen. Jorge Soler reached on an infield single off of Jose Alvarado. After Freddie Freeman struck out, Ozzie Albies singled up the middle. Herrera misplayed the ball for an error and both runners moved up 90 feet to put runners at second and third with just one out. Joe Girardi called on Hector Neris to face Riley who lined a 1-2 pitch into the left field corner to extend the lead to 5-2.

“You felt the energy and the emotion from the fans,” Riley said. “It was awesome. It felt like playoff baseball.”

Neris struck out Adam Duvall for the second out but then walked Eddie Rosario and Travis d’Arnaud to load the bases again. Girardi again went to his bullpen replacing Neris with Sam Coonrad who allowed a two-run single by Swanson to make it 7-2. Atlanta was 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position in the game.

“I just feel like when we get in that situation we’re not pushing the panic button,” Riley added. “We’re staying within ourselves and competing and that’s all you can do and I feel like we’re doing a really good job at it right now.”

The win moved the Braves to a season-best 13 games above .500. They have clinched a tie for the division and need just one more win, or a Phillies loss to punch their ticket to the postseason. Nothing about this season has been easy and Atlanta’s second half surge illustrates the character of this team.

“I just think everybody that’s in the clubhouse. They come out here and compete, they play for one another, they’re all about playing the game the right way,” Riley said. “At the end of the day, we’re just trying to win ball games. I think that’s what everybody else is doing. They’ve been great, great atmosphere, great people, I can’t say enough.”