The Atlanta Braves overcame the early exit of NL Cy Young Award runner-up Max Fried because of a bad leg Thursday with four hits by Travis d’Arnaud and three errors by Washington during a 7-2 victory over the Nationals on a sunny, chilly opening day.
The temperature was 45 degrees at first pitch, players from both teams lost balls in the bright daylight, and there were a total of five errors, three by Nationals shortstop CJ Abrams.
Designated hitter d’Arnaud capped his afternoon with a two-run double in the ninth and Austin Riley walked three times — once with the bases loaded — for Atlanta, which is coming off five NL East titles in a row. Washington finished last in the division each of the past three years.
Fried allowed one run before departing with what Atlanta said was left hamstring discomfort after wincing as he he ran to cover first base for the initial out of the fourth inning.
Braves manager Brian Snitker said after the 7-2 victory at Nationals Park on Thursday that Fried, last year’s runner-up in NL Cy Young Award voting, definitely will miss at least one start and probably will end up on the 10-day injured list.
“This happens. You don’t want to see it happen. But if it’s going to, I’d rather earlier than later (in the season), that’s for sure,” Snitker said. “We’ll just make sure we get him right.”
Fried said he felt something wrong with his leg while he was heading toward the bag on a grounder by Dominic Smith leading off the bottom of the fourth. Fried winced as the play ended.
As talented as Grissom may be, he doesn’t have a lot of experience at shortstop in the major leagues, or elsewhere frankly. Arcia does. Braves coach Ron Washington worked with Grissom on his defensive positioning and consistency during the offseason. He saw promise, even comparing the 21-year-old to Miguel Tejada. However, when Grissom was sent down, he preached patience.
Braves fans should honor that code. Arcia’s contract comes in the form of a deep breath.
Braves: All things considered, the Braves had a fairly low-key offseason. They added Sean Murphy, one of the best catchers in the game, in a trade with the Oakland Athletics, and that’s about it for notable additions. Atlanta did lose stalwart shortstop Dansby Swanson to free agency (he signed with the Chicago Cubs) and opted to replace him with Orlando Arcia rather than young Vaughn Grissom or Braden Shewmake. The Braves did not need to do much to contend, however. They have one of the best rosters in the game and most of their core is locked up long-term and affordably. The Braves are a World Series contender this year and for the foreseeable future.
Nationals: Since winning the 2019 World Series the Nationals have the second most losses in baseball (238, four fewer than the Pittsburgh Pirates), and they went 55-107 in 2023. They are so committed to the rebuild that Juan Soto was traded away last summer. The Nationals are not expected to contend this season (or even finish close to .500), but there are reasons to be excited. Shortstop CJ Abrams and lefty MacKenzie Gore were the headliners in the Soto trade, and last year’s surprise slugger Joey Meneses is entering his first full MLB season. Progress is being made with the rebuild.
“From the dugout, no one really knew what was going on,” said d’Arnaud, who served as the designated hitter. “Then once we heard some things, it’s tough news. But he’ll still be around and he’ll still cheer on the guys, and he’ll come back soon.”
Fried hopes he is just dealing with a minor tweak that might improve within the next couple of days. He said he felt the hamstring discomfort as he ran to cover first base on Dominic Smith’s groundout to Matt Olson. When Fried walked back toward the mound, he briefly touched the back of his left leg. He threw one warmup pitch and then walked without a noticeable limp toward the clubhouse.
If Fried is placed on the injured list, the Braves will immediately test their starting-pitching depth, which has been bolstered by the great performances top prospects Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd provided during Spring Training. Shuster, who ranks as Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, will make his MLB debut on Sunday. Dodd, who ranks as the team’s No. 10 prospect, will make his first big league appearance when he starts Tuesday in St. Louis.
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