ATLANTA — No one said it was going to be easy and the Atlanta Braves ratcheted up the difficulty level by dropping Game 1 to the Philadelphia Phillies 3-0. They will now have to win three of the next four games to avoid another Division Series defeat and will have to go through Philadelphia’s two best pitchers in Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola to do so.
Big picture aside, as Brian Snitker said Saturday night, all they can do now is turn their focus to Game 2 to try and get a win to even up the series. That starts with Max Fried, who will make his first appearance since going on the injured list with a blister. Fried threw five innings in a sim game at Truist Park on Tuesday, part with a band aid covering what’s left of the blister, and part without. He spoke with the media prior to Game 1.
“That I was able to go out there, throw, you know, get up five times, keep my arm going and just made some guys feel like I was in some kind of competitive environment and coming out healthy,” Fried said when asked about his biggest takeaway from the sim game. “I mean, just coming out feeling good and ready to go, I think that was the most important thing.”
No mention of the blister and Fried clarified that this isn’t new territory for him. He’s been dealing with blisters to various degrees throughout his professional career.
“It’s kind of been a narrative that I’ve had throughout my career in the Big Leagues,” Fried said. “It’s something that I’ve had to monitor and just kind of deal with and battle through. So it’s part of it.”
The blister first became an issue on September 12 during a start in Philadelphia where Fried allowed just four hits but left after five innings. He was given eight days between starts in hopes that it would clear up the issue. Fried returned September 21 and allowed one run over six innings against the Nationals, but fluid again built up in the blister and he was placed on the injured list the next day. He was asked whether cooler and dryer conditions might help, but Fried said his issues have kind of been random.
“Yeah. I think anytime, for me personally, when it’s not as hot and humid, my skin doesn’t get as sweaty and soft and be able to kind of rip,” Fried said. “So definitely, the cooler environment definitely helps. But it’s one of those things where it just kind of pops up. It wasn’t all that hot in Washington when it happened last.”
“So something that like kind of every start that I’ve had in the Big Leagues, just something you gotta monitor and just kind of pitch through, do the best you can to be the same and just make pitches realistically.”
The good news is that Fried has been able to continue throwing with a band aid and feels fine from a physical standpoint. That is a different situation than where he found himself last postseason where a virus caused him to lose about 15 pounds over the final week of the regular season.
“Yeah. I mean, obviously not the most ideal situations coming in, not all the way healthy, missing some time going into the playoffs, but physically, my body and the way that I’m feeling this year versus last year is night and day different,” Fried said. “So I’m feeling really good. I feel strong. Obviously don’t have too many innings on my arm this year. So I’m just getting excited to get back out there and kind of just leave it all out there and kind of just go to battle with my guys.”
The Braves went 8-5 against the Phillies during the regular season and clinched a sixth-straight division title with a win at Citizens Bank Park. None of that matters now and they have lost four of their last five meetings against them in the Division Series. Whether it is a mental block or something else, Atlanta must find a way to break through or else a banner season is going to be wasted. Fried knows that Game 2 is going to be a tough matchup against a familiar opponent, but he’s ready for the challenge.
“Obviously there are no secrets. I think I’ve faced this Phillies team just about more than anyone in my career,” Fried said. They know what I have. I know what they have. There’s no secrets. It’s just toeing the rubber and executing and throwing the pitches that I need to and just whoever executes the best that day.”
“I know that they’re not going to give me anything. They’re extremely disciplined. They’re great hitters, and they play well, and they play good baseball, especially when it matters most and they need to win. When they need to shorten up and go the other way, they do that. If they need to go for a long ball, they’re able to do that. They’re extremely versatile, and you know you have to bring your A game to be able to navigate through that kind of lineup and give your team a chance to win.”