It’s tough to say that the Atlanta Braves’ offense needed a “get right game,” considering the team had scored five runs or more in five its last eight games.
Yet, that’s exactly what Friday’s 15-2 series-opening win felt like for the Braves (30-21), who pounded the host New York Mets (23-28) for 17 hits, including six home runs.
Marcell Ozuna started the dinger parade in the top half of the second with a 445-foot blast – his 15th of the season – that was part of a four-run frame. The Braves fully broke the game open in a six-run fourth inning, which included homers by Travis D’Arnaud (8) and the the first of two by Ozzie Albies (5).
Austin Riley (8) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (12) also found the bleachers for the visitors. Freddie Freeman, on a quest to win his first MVP award, went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and drove in two runs to bring his season total to 48. The Braves’ first baseman also pushed his batting average on the season to .359 and now boasts an OPS of 1.129.
Dansby Swanson and Adam Duvall were, in fact, the only Braves’ starters not to record a multi-hit night, going a combined 0-for-10 with four strikeouts. Duvall did reach base twice via walk and was one of eight Braves to score a run.
Luke Jackson also had a chance to shake off some bad vibes, pitching two scoreless innings of relief. Other than a one-batter outing on Sept. 5, Jackson had not posted a scoreless effort since Aug. 28, and Friday was the first multi-inning scoreless appearance for Jackson since Aug. 3.
Heading into the night, a major storyline for the game was the return of Max Fried. The 26-year-old lefthander had been on the IL since Sept. 6 with back issues, and as much as the Braves’ rotation has struggled, he was badly needed close to the form we saw earlier in the year. Fried (7-0, 1.96 ERA) delivered on Friday, tossing five innings while surrendering just one run on three hits and two walks.
Furthermore, the velocity was back on his fastball for at least part of the outing.
That heat didn’t last, as Fried’s fastball velocity dipped back down in the fourth and fifth innings, but it was good to see that some of the gas had returned.
The Braves, of course, remained atop the National League’s East Division with nine games remaining. The Philadelphia Phillies (26-25) took advantage of a doubleheader with the skidding Toronto Blue Jays, sweeping the pair to pull within 4 of the Braves. The Miami Marlins(26-24) split a doubleheader with the Washington Nationals to land 3.5 games of Atlanta.
The Braves are currently in line for the third seed in the NL Playoffs. If the season ended after Friday, that would pit Atlanta against either the Cincinnati Reds or St. Louis Cardinals. Those two teams are tied for second place in the NL Central and are virtually tied in division record as well.
To be frank, calculating magic numbers this season – with no play-in games, no interdivision head-to-head results and varying numbers of games played – is not for the faint of heart. Twitter user @AtlMagicNumber has attempted it, though, so kudos to them.