In what was by far the best performance by a Braves starting pitcher during this early stage of the season, Max Fried threw six shutout innings while only giving up one hit. His great effort on the mound helped boost the Braves as they swept the Cubs with a 9-4 victory.
The early stages of this game seemed to indicate that we were going to be in for a pitcher’s duel. Max Fried’s first inning went about as well as you’d want it to go, as he only needed 11 pitches to get through the top of Chicago’s order. Meanwhile, Yu Darvish walked Freddie Freeman and that was the only blemish on the first frame of his stint.
The two pitchers’ paths would diverge once the fourth inning came around. That’s when Nick Markakis, Ozzie Albies and Brian McCann all delivered singles, with McCann’s knock bringing in Markakis to score the game’s first run. Ozzie ended up getting wiped out after Dansby Swanson attempted a bunt and Ozzie was caught in a rundown. In a world where the MLB rulebook is applied correctly, the Braves may have been awarded a run after Wilson Contreras blocked the plate when Ozzie tried to get home. Instead, he was ruled out after a challenge and the Max Fried was robbed of a base hit after a diving catch from Kyle Schwarber ended the inning.
If the Braves felt like they were short-changed a run in the fourth inning, then they got all they could ask for in the fifth inning. Ender Inciarte started things off with a double and then Yu Darvish walked Josh Donaldson. That was the last batter that Darvish would face, and it was time for the Cubs bullpen to get involved. Carl Edwards Jr. entered the game and picked up where their bullpen left off last night. He walked Freddie Freeman to load the bases, let a run score after throwing a wild pitch, and then capped off his terrible stint by walking Ronald Acuña Jr. to reload the bases.
Tyler Chatwood entered the game and this move alone was a bad omen for the Cubs since Chatwood was the defending league leader in giving up walks. While the Cubs can have a small consolation in knowing that Chatwood didn’t give up a walk, he still got knocked around. Nick Markakis had a huge night at the plate and this was his biggest knock of the night, as he hit a bases-clearing double to break the game open and give the Braves a 5-0 lead. Dansby added a single to make it 6-0 Braves and that’s where it stood after five innings.
The sixth inning ended up being a fateful one for the Braves and Max Fried in particular. Fried was an out away from getting through the inning with the perfect game still intact, but Mark Zagunis looped one of Fried’s curveballs into center field for a single and that was the end of the perfect game bid. Fried got out of the inning with the shutout still intact and so ended what was easily the best outing by a Braves starter so far.
Max Fried's Curveball.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 5, 2019
Some pitches are just too pretty to hit. pic.twitter.com/zR1vy0YzRa
The Braves weren’t done scoring, though. Brian McCann came inches away from hitting a dinger before Albert Almora Jr. robbed him at the fence. The good news is that McCann’s near-miss was more-than-enough to score Nick Markakis from third base and that made it 7-0.
While Max Fried was the star of the night, Nick Markakis definitely gave him a run for his money. The veteran outfielder went 5-for-5 at the plate, which included three doubles. He had five RBIs on the night and two of them came on his final double of the night. It was the type of night that was reminiscent of what we saw from Markakis in the first half of 2018 and it would be fantastic if he could keep that up as this season progresses.
Max Fried throwing six great innings and the offense continuing their success at the plate meant that the bullpen only had to keep the boat afloat for three low-leverage innings. Shane Carle did a good job of bouncing back from his rough time in Philadelphia by tossing two shutout innings of his own. There was no bullpen drama for the Braves until the ninth inning, which is when Chad Sobotka entered the game and immediately gave up back-to-back homers (after an error from Ozzie Albies) in order to give the Cubs a breath of life.
Sobotka’s struggles meant that A.J. Minter had to make his season-debut. Even if things may have gotten a tiny bit tense at the end, A.J. Minter was still able to get the final two outs of the game to make sure that the Braves got the win and the sweep.
It was a fantastic night for Max Fried and Nick Markakis, and the Braves are now back at .500 after a rough start to the season. They now have a chance to really get things rolling as they get to face the Marlins for the first time this season.