By KEVIN MCALPIN
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Tonight, the Braves officially start the home stretch of the 2020 season, as they open up a three game set against the Mets at Citi Field. While the club was idle last night, they got some help in the standings as the Red Sox beat the Marlins, and once again, the Phillies bullpen imploded against the Mets. As things stand, Atlanta leads the NL East by three games over Miami and four and a half over Philadelphia with ten games left to play. And the two time defending division champions will get another big lift tonight when it comes to their starting rotation as Max Fried returns from back spasms that put him on the injured list for the last two weeks.
Fried, a perfect 6-0 with a sub two ERA, has slipped a bit when it comes to the NL Cy Young race, but that doesn’t take away from just how remarkable this season has been for the 26 year old southpaw. Prior to his last outing, the Braves were undefeated in his first eight outings on the shortened season, until he took a no decision his last go round. But more concerning in that start was the fact that his velocity on his fastball dipped to the low 90’s, topping out at 91. We later found out that his back was bothering him, which would explain the dip from the mid to the low 90’s on his heater. But, Fried has been able to go through all his normal between start routines, so he’s good to go for tonight’s start in New York.
While this time of year is typically spent “scoreboard watching”, with no fans in the stands, that’s out of the picture this season. Players have joked about not having the distraction of taking a peek at the Out of Town scoreboard, so their primary focus is on the game at hand. And for the Braves, a series win in Queens this weekend would put all the pressure on the Marlins who come to Truist Park for what could be a pivotal four game set starting on Monday.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.