ATLANTA — After defeating flamethrower Spencer Strider in Game 1 of the NLDS, the Phillies will see a completely different pitcher in Game 2 in Max Fried.
And all eyes will be on his left index finger.
Fried missed his final two regular-season starts with a blister that he struggled with in the minor leagues and early in his major league career. He was activated on the injured list Saturday as the Phillies and Braves began their major league series and says he has recovered.
“It’s kind of been a narrative that I’ve had my whole career in the big leagues, something that I’ve had to monitor and just deal with and fight through,” he said over the weekend.
“At this point, as far as visuals and sensations go, my finger feels like it has healed and is back to normal.”
During the long break, the Braves played intrasquad games to prepare for the divisional round. This didn’t seem to help their offense, which was shut out at home in the opener for the first time in over two years.
Fried appeared in intrasquad play on Tuesday and threw 76 pitches over five innings. He’s ready for Monday night, but if the blister worsens or ruptures, it could mean a short start and an advantage for the Phillies.
“There’s always concern about it,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But everything went great in the team. He got the reinforcements and pitches he needed. The finger held up really well. So we think he’s good to go this far.”
While Strider averages 98 mph with his fastball, Fried is more like 93-94 in terms of command and movement, a lefty who reads swings and adjusts them on the fly.
Fried has been one of the National League’s top starters over the last four seasons, going 43-15 with a 2.66 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 83 starts. He has faced the Phillies 10 times in the regular season over that span and has an ERA of 2.78 and 62 strikeouts in 55 innings. He only allowed four home runs.
One of his worst starts against the Phillies came in Game 1 of the 2022 NLDS, when he allowed six runs (four earned) on eight hits and didn’t get out of the fourth inning. But Fried, like Strider, wasn’t fully healthy last October. He dealt with stomach problems leading to NLDS, a viral infection that turned into a bacterial infection.
“I mean, obviously there are no ideal situations coming, not completely healthy, I’m missing some time before the playoffs, but physically, my body and how I feel this year compared to last year is different on the day and at night, Fried said.
“I think I’ve seen the Phillies more than anyone in my career. They know what I have. I know what they do. There are no secrets. I just get by, making and throwing the pitches I need. and only the one who will perform the best that day.
“I know they won’t give me anything. They are extremely disciplined. They are great hitters and play good baseball, especially when it matters most and they need to win. When they need to cut time and come out the other side, they do it. If they need to play a long ball, they can do it. They are extremely versatile and you know you have to bring your A game to be able to get the right squad through this and give your team a chance to win.”
The Phillies will face their ace, Zack Wheeler, who has a 2.55 ERA in seven playoff starts over the last 12 months.
The Braves tied a major league record with 307 home runs this season and set a record by hitting .501 as a team, but Wheeler has performed as well against them as anyone in 2023. In Atlanta on Memorial Day weekend, he scored 12 goals in eight scoreless innings. On September 18 at Truist Park, he held the Braves to one run over six innings. In the meantime, they reached it for a three-goal match. In Wheeler’s three starts, the Braves went 13-for-70, hitting .186.
Wheeler is from nearby Smyrna and has consistently performed well against his hometown team in 27 career starts, posting an ERA of 3.18.
“They know what I will do to them and I know what they will do to me,” he said on Saturday. “It’s a bit of a cat-and-mouse game, especially when you’re face-to-face with people a lot. And when dealing with people who are really good, you have to play cat and mouse all the time, but don’t try to outdo yourself at the same time, show your strengths and just let it go.
“Coming back here every year is amazing, but especially during the playoffs, the big moments when a lot of people come and watch. So it’ll definitely be nice to play here in front of friends and family and hopefully we’ll win.” “
The first whistle of the second match will take place on Monday at 18:07 on TBS.
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