CINCINNATI — Max Fried stopped the Reds and the Braves’ offense exploded late as Atlanta beat Cincinnati, 9-1, in Game 1 of Friday’s series.
Here are five observations about the Braves (45-33):
1. The Braves trailed by one run as the teams headed into the seventh inning. It quickly became an eruption.
The Braves scored three goals in the seventh on the Dansby Swanson homer, three more in the eighth and one in the ninth. Atlanta can do it and have shown once again why their roster is so dangerous.
In round eight, Adam Duvall ripped a double. The next batter, Orlando Arcia, clipped a ball between the third baseman and the shortstop which scored two more Braves. Austin Riley started a run with a single in the ninth.
And just like that, the Braves led by eight runs at batter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
“It’s one of those stadiums (where) you never feel comfortable,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s like you have to keep scoring because you never feel good with a lead here. I’ve seen a lot of those disappear over the years so it was good that we kept adding more.
Fried added of Atlanta’s roster: “One to nine is pretty good. They can hurt you at any time. It’s not an easy range to navigate. You kind of have to throw 27 full withdrawals.
2. It’s hard to find new ways to describe Fried’s dominance. He pitches like one of baseball‘s true aces, someone who is expected to spin a jewel every five days.
This time, he held the Reds – on a third-inning RBI single – in seven innings. He allowed five hits, struck out four and scored none on a 94-pitch outing.
“He’s so, almost like surgical, in a way,” Swanson said. “He is prepared, knows exactly what he wants to do. He has such a good baseball brain, can use and trust not only his abilities but also his instincts, what he sees. Not only can he do it, but he can also perform it, can’t he? It’s partly because he has the stuff, he has the mind, but he also has the ability to do what he wants to do.
Fried now has a 2.66 ERA this season. He seems destined for the All-Star Game if he continues at this pace. He’s looked like one of baseball’s best pitchers this season.
Here’s one way to contextualize Fried’s mastery this season: The southpaw has allowed two runs or less in 12 of his 16 starts, and he’s gone at least six innings in all but one of those outings.
3. Swanson smashed the ball and sailed it over the wall for a three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning. The circuit was crucial – not just for the game, but for the narrative.
Throughout his career, Swanson has been known as a streaky hitter. As he tore through opposing pitching teams this season, you knew a crisis would come at some point because, well, that’s baseball.
Swanson entered this series on a 0-for-14 run. He responded by going 4-for-5 with two doubles and the homer, possibly preventing his slide from being longer.
“I sort of got back in tune with myself,” Swanson said. “I felt like in Philadelphia, I missed a lot of balls, and the ones I hit hard got caught. That’s the nature of this game, and you just have to keep moving forward and take it one day at a time.
And if Reds left fielder Tommy Pham hadn’t cut a ball and held Swanson to a double, the shortstop probably would have stretched him to a triple and hit for the cycle.
4. Riley often delivers flashes of the strength he is known for. He has raw power.
The latest example came on Friday, when he homered a 405-foot two-run off Mike Minor in the top of the first inning. A closer look made you appreciate the circuit much more.
Southpaw Mike Minor, the Braves’ first draft pick in 2009, threw Riley an 84-mph shift off the plate. It looked like a bullet, but Riley immediately kicked it to the center.
5. Ronald Acuña has entered the box for the first time since leaving a game after injuring his left foot when he fouls a ball. In a cruel twist, Minor hit Acuña right-footed with a throw.
Acuña took first base and stayed in the game both times, which probably pleased his coaches and teammates.
On his return, he went 2 for 3 with a double and a single. He also scored two points.
10 – The Braves have scored at least nine points in 10 of 78 games.
“He gets into this conversation of these guys you want to watch pitch, and when he pitches, everybody pays attention.” —Snitker on Fried
Braves right-hander Spencer Strider takes on Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle in Saturday’s game, which starts at 4:10 p.m.
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