Max Fried will make his much anticipated return Friday for the Atlanta Braves when they begin a three-game series at Wrigley Field against the suddenly red hot Chicago Cubs. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks will get the start for the Cubs who are 10-2 over their last 12 games and 13-6 since the All-Star break.
One of the biggest surprises about Atlanta’s 69-37 start is that Fried hasn’t made much of a contribution. Fried made just five starts, with his last coming on May 5, before going on the injured list with a left forearm strain. Further examination revealed no structural damage, but his return was going to be a long process nonetheless. Fried made four rehab starts between Rome and Gwinnett, with the last coming on July 29 where he allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings. He should be fully stretched out going into Friday’s start and provided he is completely recovered, fresh for the stretch run.
An injury pushed Hendricks’ 2023 debut back to May and he has done what he usually does which is pitch effectively without a ton of swing and miss. Hendricks has a 3.49 ERA and a 3.96 FIP in 77 1/3 innings, but just a 15.3% strikeout rate. He generates a ton of soft contact and has surrendered just 18 barrels all season. Hendricks allowed three runs over seven innings in his last start against the Cardinals.
Friday’s game also marks the first matchup between Atlanta and shortstop Dansby Swanson, who signed a longterm deal with the Cubs this past offseason. Swanson has put together an up and down season, but may be peaking at the right time for the Cubs. Since returning from the injured list, Swanson is hitting .317/.383/.780 with six homers and a 201 wRC+ over his last 11 games. Chicago leads the majors in runs scored in the second half and recent surges by Swanson, Cody Bellinger and Ian Happ are the big reasons why.
The Braves of course are no stranger to scoring runs. They rank second in runs scored since the All-Star break and continue to bash homers at a historic pace. Ronald Acuña Jr. joined the 25/50 club over the weekend. Matt Olson has homered four times in his last five games, giving him an NL leading 37 for the season. Olson also leads the majors with 91 RBI through 106 games.
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. ET and can be seen on Bally Sports Southeast.
Game Date/Time: Friday, August 4, 2:20 p.m. ET
Location: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois
TV: Bally Sports Southeast
Radio: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan