Dansby Swanson hit a three-run homer and the Atlanta Braves cruised to their third straight win over the Miami Marlins 9-4 Wednesday night in a game overshadowed by Max Fried’s early departure with an ankle injury.
The Braves ace was making his final regular-season start, hoping to boost his NL Cy Young Award credentials ahead of starting Game 1 in the NL playoffs next week.
But Fried lasted only one inning, tweaking an ankle while fielding a bunt down the third-base line by Starling Marte. While the left-hander didn’t appear to be hurt, he wasn’t the same pitcher after the play.
Having gone the entire season without allowing a homer, covering 55 2/3 innings, Fried suddenly gave up two in a row. Jesus Aquilar hit one off the facade of the second deck, Brian Anderson drove one into the empty center-field seats, and Garrett Cooper nearly made it three in a row with a double off the wall.
The left-hander got the third out, then sat solemnly in the dugout while talking to manager Brian Snitker and getting an apparent pep talk from teammate Freddie Freeman. While the decision to remove Fried was described as precautionary, it created more uncertainty for the NL East champions, who have struggled all season to put together a consistent rotation behind Fried.
Atlanta bounced back with three runs in the bottom half of the first to ensure Fried wouldn’t take his first loss. He finished the regular season 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA.
Luke Jackson (2-0) earned the win with four innings in relief of Fried.
There are no concerns about the Atlanta offense. One night after clinching their third straight division title, the Braves dealt another blow to Miami’s precarious playoff hopes by knocking around budding young star Sixto Sanchez.
Ozzie Albies and Adeiney Hechavarria, making a rare start, drove in two runs apiece. Swanson blew the game open with his ninth homer of the season, a 401-foot, opposite-field drive into the Braves bullpen off Josh Smith (1-1) to cap a five-run fourth.
The second-place Marlins lost their fourth in a row, dropping to 28-28 with four games left in the shortened regular season. They are a half-game ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies, trying desperately to hang on for their first playoff appearance since winning the World Series in 2003.
All eyes will be on Fried over the next several days. He’s got a full week to recover before the Braves open the best-of-three wild card series which will be held entirely at Truist Park.
The Braves go for a four-game sweep of the Marlins when rookie RHP Ian Anderson (3-1, 2.36) makes his final start of the regular season against Miami’s RHP Pablo López (5-4. 3.96). Anderson is expected to start Game 2 of the wild card series.
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