ATLANTA (AP)Max Fried found a way to win even without having his best stuff.
”Definitely had to work tonight,” he said. ”A couple of defensive plays bailed me out of it and it’s also nice when you get a couple of runs early to try and settle in with the lead and try to hold it.”
Fried won his sixth straight decision by pitching six tough innings and the Atlanta Braves earned their eighth consecutive victory, 3-1 over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night.
Adam Duvall, Dansby Swanson and Travis d’Arnaud each drove in a run for the defending World Series champions, whose winning streak is their longest since they took nine in a row last August. Atlanta has outscored opponents 55-21 during this streak.
Fried (6-2) pitched out of a jam in the first and the third before Jack Suwinski hit his eighth homer to trim the lead to 3-1 in the fourth and end a string of 16 consecutive scoreless innings for the lefty.
Fried worked around eight hits, striking out eight and walking none. His 44 wins since the start of 2019 are most in the NL and second in the majors, four behind he Yankees’ Gerrit Cole.
In his last 10 starts, Fried is 6-0 with a 2.11 ERA and has pitched at least six innings each time he’s taken a turn in the rotation. The Braves are 8-2 over that span.
”Just knowing I might not have had the best stuff or didn’t physically feel my best, but I know when I went out there I still had to do what I can to get outs and get us through six innings,” Fried said. ”You just try to figure out a way, whether it’s relying on what’s working that day or change game plans. It’s a lot of communication with Travis.”
Ronald Acuna Jr. was hit by a pitch in the third, stole second and scored when Swanson lifted an opposite-field bloop single to right. Swanson scored from first on d’Arnaud’s two-out double down the left-field line to make it 3-0.
Atlanta went ahead in the second when d’Arnaud walked, advanced on a single and a grounder and scored on Duvall’s single.
Will Smith faced the minimum in the seventh for the Braves, A.J. Minter pitched the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen got his 16th save in 19 chances with a perfect ninth.
Pirates starter JT Brubaker (0-6) retired 12 straight batters before Michael Harris II singled with two outs in the seventh. Brubaker gave up three runs and six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
”I feel like I threw the ball well,” Brubaker said. ”I felt good. The one thing that stands out is the hit by pitch and the four-pitch walk. Can’t defend walks. They put the ball in play and ended up getting those two guys across on free passes. Balls found holes. Balls fell in right in the no-man’s land. D’Arnaud hit a good pitch, and I stuck to the same game plan.”
Fried stranded four runners in scoring position. He was helped by an adept double play turned by Swanson at shortstop to end the fifth.
”It wasn’t as tough a grind as some of them were, but he had to work,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. ”A few mis-hit balls, a couple of balls hit hard. He was in trouble a lot but he always seems to find a way to reach back and get out of it. Dansby turns a great double play one inning to get him out of it.”
Fried allowed three hits in the first, but his pickoff at first base of leadoff hitter Ke’Bryan Hayes proved fortuitous when Bryan Reynolds and Michael Chavis followed with singles. He struck out Diego Castillo to end the threat.
Fried’s 16 pickoffs since the start of 2019 are most in the majors. He has 21 in his career.
Suwinski’s eight homers are most among NL rookies, and his three long balls against lefties are the second most by a Pittsburgh rookie left-handed hitter since Garrett Jones hit six in 2009. Suwinski has hit safely in each of his last eight games, going 12 for 30 with two doubles, three homers and five RBIs.
Pirates RHP Nick Mears (elbow surgery) had his rehab transferred from to Triple-A Indianapolis after he struck out six in four scoreless innings – a span of four relief appearances – with low-A Bradenton. … Pittsburgh RHP Heath Hembree (right calf strain) has begun a rehab assignment with Indianapolis. He pitched a scoreless inning on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh’s Roansy Contreras (1-0, 1.93 ERA) will face Spencer Strider (1-2, 2.76) in the second game of a four-game series. Contreras will make his fourth start and seventh appearance. Strider will make his third start and 14th appearance.
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