Milwaukee – The Milwaukee Brewers won 95 games during the regular season, largely due to their starting rotation and the strength of its three All-Stars: Corbin Burns, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddie Peralta. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers had a lower earned run average than the Brewers’ early employees.
But through two matches of this National League Division series against Atlanta, no starting pitcher has shined brighter than Max Fried. In fact, since the All-Star break in mid-July, there has been no one better than Fried — not Max Schazer of the Dodgers, not Burns, not Robby Ray of the Toronto Blue Jays.
And in a 3-0 win over the Brewers in Game 2 on Saturday, which tied the series in one game each, Fried’s dominance continued as he overtook Woodruff.
Left-handed batsman Fried crushed the Brewers in six scoreless innings. He scored nine runs, scored none and allowed just three hits for an assortment of 95-mph fastball and darting breaking balls. Dating back to 19 September, Fried has allowed only one earned run in 29 innings.
“A big part of what I’m doing is really trying to keep guys off balance,” said Fried, 27, who had a 3.04 ERA in 165 regular-season innings. “Earlier, I would try to miss the bat and I would try to be very good. Now, I am trying to strike in the area and gain weak contact.”
This change in approach began on July 28, when Fried lost 2–1 to the Mets, despite scoring nine runs in seven innings. That was the last time Fried was charged with damages.
From the All-Star break to the end of the regular season, he posted a major league best 1.74 ERA in 93 innings, including two shutouts. Opponents hit .190 against him in that period, and Atlanta went 11-3 on his debut. By comparison, Woodruff had a 3.41 ERA and the Brewers went 4-8 during the same period.
“A guy who has absolutely dominated the game is what we need to win,” Atlanta reliever Tyler Matzek said of Fried. Added Atlanta manager Brian Snitker: “He’s been really good for a long time.”
As in Game 1, scoring was low on Saturday. Atlanta took advantage of some of Woodruff’s mistakes, who had a 2.56 ERA over 179 in regular-season innings. And even good pitches – below the strike zone and a change for second baseman Ozzy Albiz in the third inning – were hit. “I’m a little boy so I hit low balls a lot,” said Albiz, who is 5-8.
After first baseman Freddie Freeman gave Atlanta a 1–0 lead in the third inning with a run-scoring single, Albiz made it 2–0 when he golfed the low pitch for a double. The ball hit the top of the right field fence and bounced back to the ground. After that he did some push-ups.
Sunday is “a holiday,” Albiz later said. “I can workout from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., that ball has to go out.”
In the sixth inning, Atlanta third baseman Austin Riley scored a single home run to give Woodruff a 3–0 lead.
“Run counts in the postseason,” Woodruff said. “You can’t always be perfect.”
Atlanta added tension to the game after Fried was picked up by Snitker after six innings and 81 pitches. Snitker said he did this because Fried was still relatively inexperienced and because he had spent so much energy at the heart of Milwaukee’s lineup in the sixth inning.
In the seventh inning, reliever Luke Jackson took two outs but then went for a single. However, Matzek saved the day with a strikeout to end the threat. In the next frame, Matzek made his own jam—a walk and a single—and jumped out of it. Closer Will Smith did the same in the ninth, sending the series back to an Atlanta tie.