Fried finds footing in WS clincher for Braves after stomp

HOUSTON (AP) — Max Fried found his footing on the mound for the Atlanta Braves after getting stepped on early in Game 6 of the World Series.

The young left-hander looked like an ace again, and the Braves clinched their first championship since 1995, which came only a few months before Fried’s second birthday.

Fried got 18 outs against the 19 batters he faced after his right ankle got stomped on by Michael Brantley’s rubber cleat and became the first pitcher in this World Series to complete six innings. The pitcher was trying to cover first base after Houston’s second batter of the game Tuesday night hit a slow grounder fielded by first baseman Freddie Freeman.

When umpire Chris Conroy signaled safe, Fried immediately pointed at his right foot, and not because he was hurting. He was indicating that Brantley had stepped on his foot, which was bent somewhat awkwardly but not in contact with the base.

The Braves didn’t argue the call, instead moving quickly to check that Fried was OK.

Six days after losing Game 2 in Houston, he was just fine. Fried struck out six without a walk and limited the Astros to four singles in a 7-0 win.

Tyler Matzek pitched two scoreless innings with four strikeouts before Will Smith, the closer and third lefty in a row to pitch for the Braves, worked the ninth to wrap up the first shutout in a World Series clincher since the Chicago White Sox won 1-0 in the same stadium in 2005 to finish a four-game sweep of the Astros.

Jose Altuve led off with an infield single before Brantley reached on what was ruled an error on Fried. But they were both left stranded when Carlos Correa struck out, cleanup hitter Yordan Alvarez grounded out and AL batting champion Yuli Gurriel took three strikes in a row.

After giving up leadoff singles in both the third and fourth innings, Fried benefitted from double plays. That included a comebacker by Brantley in the third, when Fried turned and fired to shortstop Dansby Swanson for the relay to first.

When Altuve got to the plate for the third time in the game with one out in the sixth, Fried threw a pair of offspeed pitches for strikes before a routine infield popup. Brantley singled on a slow roller that Swanson fielded in shallow center field before Correa struck out for the second time to end the inning on Fried’s 74th and final pitch.

In Game 2 last Wednesday, Fried retired 10 batters in a row in his first-ever World Series start. But that came after a four-run second inning that put the Astros ahead to stay in a 7-2 win, only the second time all year he lost consecutive starts.

Six days before that, the California native gave up five runs and eight hits over 4 2/3 innings against the Dodgers in an 11-2 loss when the Braves had a chance to wrap up the NL Championship Series in Game 5 in Los Angeles. That had been the first time since June 1 that he didn’t make it past the fifth inning.

But in another clincher, the 27-year-old Fried made his ninth career postseason start. The only Braves with more are Tom Glavine (32), John Smoltz (27), Greg Maddux (27) — all three of them Hall of Fame pitchers — and Steve Avery 12.

Fried put on quite a show for the Braves fans, and two of his high school teammates who were there to watch: Chicago White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito and St. Louis pitcher Jack Flaherty. They were there along with Harvard-Westlake’s Matt LaCour, the baseball coach there from 2002-15 and now one of the school’s athletic directors.

All three of those former prep teammates were opening day MLB starters this season. Only Fried made it to the final game.

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