Giants, Braves start series between NL division leaders

MLB

The Atlanta Braves will lean on southpaw Max Fried to steady the ship Friday when they host the San Francisco Giants to begin a three-game series between a pair of division-leading teams.

The Braves lost two games to the New York Yankees this week after reeling off nine consecutive wins, but they lead the National League East by 5 1/2 games over the Philadelphia Phillies.

The NL West-leading Giants, who have the best record in baseball, have won five straight after sweeping a three-game road series against the New York Mets.

“That streak we went on, there was going to be some pushback to that,” Atlanta pitcher Charlie Morton said. “We’re going to run into some good teams and we’re going to have to get that momentum going again. I still think we’re in a really good spot.”

San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler said, “In order to win the biggest games going forward for the rest of the season, we’re going to have to play clean, fundamentally sound, crisp, efficient baseball. We’ve done that for most of the season, which is why we’re where we are.”

Fried (11-7, 3.49 ERA) has won four consecutive starts, and he threw a four-hit shutout on Aug. 20 while beating the Baltimore Orioles 3-0. It was the first nine-inning complete game of his career, and he needed only 90 pitches.

Fried has a 0.67 ERA in his four starts in August. In three career appearances, two starts, against San Francisco, he is 2-0 with 2.03 ERA.

Fried will be opposed by ex-Brave Kevin Gausman (12-5, 2.47 ERA) in the opener.

Gausman was acquired by Atlanta at the trade deadline in 2018 and helped the Braves win the division. He was jettisoned midway in 2019 after going 3-7 with a 6.19 ERA, and he worked out of the bullpen the rest of the season with the Cincinnati Reds. He joined the Giants in 2020 and has been one of San Francisco’s most dependable starters this year.

Gausman has already set a career high for wins, and his ERA is on pace to be a career best, too.

The right-hander has won three straight decisions, but didn’t fare well in his Saturday start, when he allowed five runs (two earned) in 3 2/3 innings at Oakland. The Giants are 17-8 when Gausman starts.

This will be his second career start against Atlanta. He threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Braves in 2015 when he was with the Orioles.

The Giants continue to battle through injuries.

Catcher Buster Posey left the Tuesday game with a sore left knee and hasn’t played since. Posey, who is hitting only .129 (4-for-31) with 11 strikeouts over his past nine games, is considered day-to-day.

Shortstop Brandon Crawford exited the Tuesday contest due to back pain but didn’t miss additional action. Infielder Donovan Solano was placed on the injured list Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19, and first baseman Brandon Belt was placed on the bereavement list following the death of his grandmother.

This is the first meeting of the season between San Francisco and Atlanta; the two clubs square off again Sept. 17-19 in San Francisco. The Giants are 18-8 against teams from the NL East.

–Field Level Media

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