There are 2,430 games in a Major League Baseball season, and some are not to be ignored. Take Tuesday’s meeting between the visiting Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers, which comes with a circle around it.
Not only are the teams the participants in each of the past two National League Championship Series, but the Tuesday matchup features Braves ace left-hander Max Fried (0-2, 5.73 ERA) and Dodgers star right-hander Walker Buehler (1-0, 3.38).
Adding another layer to the drama is the fact that Fried is a Los Angeles-area native who will be making his third career start at Dodger Stadium.
Fried is off to a slow start, having given up five runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Cincinnati Reds in his 2022 debut and three runs (two earned) in 5 1/3 innings against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday. Opponents have collected 15 hits against him.
“I think it’s important to know it’s a long season and obviously every game counts the exact same,” Fried said. “But you shouldn’t put too much stock or have anything that’s kind of all or nothing too early on.”
Case in point, Fried had a pair of no-decisions and a 9.00 ERA after two games last season. He finished the regular season 14-7 with a 3.04 ERA, and when the fall was complete, he had earned a World Series ring.
“There’s a lot of good,” Fried said. “I’m getting outs on weak contact, which I thrive on.”
Fried is 1-2 with a 4.30 ERA in five lifetime starts against the Dodgers, and he is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in two starts at Dodger Stadium. He did have nine strikeouts in six innings during a no-decision at Los Angeles last season.
In the NLCS the past two seasons, he went a combined 0-2 with a 4.24 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers, but Atlanta won each of his two no-decisions.
In Monday’s opener of the three-game series, former Braves standout Freddie Freeman hit his first home run with the Dodgers. The blast to the opposite field in left came in his first at-bat against his former team as he connected off right-hander Huascar Ynoa.
The Dodgers went on to earn a 7-4 victory, extending their winning streak to seven games. The Los Angeles offense has come to life after a lackluster spring and a 1-2 start to the season.
The Dodgers scored five runs in the fourth inning Monday to give them five innings this season of at least five runs. Freeman has helped lead the charge from the No. 2 hole in the lineup with a .325 batting average and an .879 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Buehler has made two similar starts, as he allowed two runs in each. The difference was no run support at Colorado on Opening Day in a 5-3 loss, while the Dodgers won his outing Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds when the offense ended the night with nine runs.
The bonus of his outing last week was that he reached the 98-pitch mark, although he lasted just 5 2/3 innings. He also continued to strengthen his relationship with catcher Will Smith.
“I had some kind of weird at-bats in there (Thursday) and Will steered me through it,” Buehler said. “That’s what he’s gotten so good at. Hats off to him.”
In three career starts against Atlanta, Buehler is 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA. However, he was 0-1 with a 7.04 ERA in 7 2/3 innings over two starts against the Braves in last year’s NLCS after he delivered a 1-0 mark and a 0.82 ERA in 11 innings during two starts in the 2020 NLCS.
–Field Level Media