Left-hander Max Fried, who has won three consecutive starts, will try to cool the red-hot bat of Nelson Cruz when he takes the mound for the Atlanta Braves in the rubber match with the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon in Minneapolis.
Fried (12-4, 4.07 ERA) is 5-1 with a 3.99 ERA in his past seven starts. He comes in off a 4-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday, when he allowed one run on four hits over six innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four while going the distance in a rain-shortened game.
The Wednesday game will be Fried’s first career appearance against the Twins.
Atlanta snapped Minnesota’s four-game winning streak on Tuesday night with a 12-7 victory to even the series despite another monster game by Cruz.
The 39-year-old designated hitter finished 4-for-5 with two home runs and four RBIs. It was the 17th four-hit game of his career and his sixth multi-homer game of the season, tying Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew’s franchise single-season record set in 1964.
“It’s more of what we’ve seen,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It’s extremely impressive. On a night like tonight (when the Twins fell behind 11-0) it can almost go by and not get spoken about very much. For most players, a night like tonight is the night of the year, and for him it seems like just another day. He’s been completely locked in and taking great swings.”
Cruz, who ranks second in the American League in home runs (32) behind Mike Trout (38), has hit 16 home runs in the 23 games since the All-Star break, the most in the majors. He has driven in five runs in a game four times this season.
Atlanta’s top three batters in the lineup on Tuesday — Ronald Acuna Jr. (3-for-5, HR, 2 RBIs, 4 runs), Ozzie Albies (4-for-6, 3B, 2 RBIs, 3 runs) and Freddie Freeman (3-for-5, HR, 4 RBIs, 2 runs) — were a combined 10-for-16 with two homers, a triple, nine runs and eight RBIs. The Braves finished with 16 hits.
“We needed a game like that offensively because we’ve been kind of treading water a little bit here and there,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “It was good to burst out like that.”
Freeman has 91 RBIs, one behind the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Eduardo Escobar for the major league lead.
“It means a lot,” Freeman said. “That means that Ronnie (Acuna), Dansby (Swanson) and Ozzie (Albies) are getting on a lot in front of me. RBIs are a team stat. I wouldn’t have 91 without those guys.”
Minnesota will start veteran left-hander Martin Perez (8-4, 4.58 ERA) in the series finale. He will be making his first career start against the Braves.
Perez has gone four starts since his last victory on July 5 against the Texas Rangers.
He struggled in his last start on Friday against the Kansas City Royals when he allowed five runs on seven hits, including a pair of homers by Hunter Dozier and another by Cam Gallagher, over five innings. The Twins rallied to win the game 11-9 behind a homer and five RBIs from Cruz.
–Field Level Media
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