The Los Angeles Dodgers took the field Saturday afternoon knowing they would need to defeat Atlanta Braves ace Max Fried to keep their season alive. They were able to do exactly that with a 3-1 victory to force a winner-take-all Game 7 in the National League Championship Series.
Fried was great in Game 1 of the series, tossing six strong innings while allowing four hits and a run. He struck out nine and only issued two walks to help the Braves start the NLCS with a win.
The Dodgers jumped on him early in Game 6, scoring all three runs in the first inning with Corey Seager and Justin Turner hitting back-to-back home runs. Fried was able to settle in from there and get through 6.1 innings without any other damage, but he wasn’t quite as sharp in as he was in Game 1, notably walking four hitters.
Fried typically relies on his curveball as his out pitch, but according to Buster Olney of ESPN, an MLB staffer from an unnamed team believed the Dodgers picked something up with Fried that he was tipping his pitches on breaking balls:
Staffer with another team is convinced the Dodgers have picked up something in Fried's delivery that tips off when he's throwing his curveball.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 17, 2020
While no one will likely ever know if that is the case, there is some merit that the Dodgers saw something based on the data.
Fried threw his curveball 22.5% of the time in the regular season and had a 31.2 whiff percentage, which was his best of all pitches. In Game 1, Fried threw 30 curveballs (31% of his pitches) and got 12 swings, with five of them being missed, which again was his best pitch.
In Game 6 though, Fried threw 34 curveballs (31% usage rate), generating 14 swings with only one of them being missed. He also had nine strikes taken on curveballs, so it was clear the Dodgers were trying to lay off that pitch.
Despite that, L.A. struggled to find much success after the first inning, regularly rolling over his breaking balls.
Dodgers were mindful of Fried’s offspeed pitches
With this being the second time the Dodgers faced Fried this week, it is also possible that they gained experience and knowledge the first time around even if they didn’t have much success.
“We weren’t really sure Game 1. You hand’t faced the guy, you don’t really have that much knowledge,” Corey Seager explained.
“You kind of watch him throw against other teams, but guys normally pitch us differently. It’s a battle that first game to kind of feel it out and do what you can to score runs. He got us that first game and we were able to jump on him today early.”
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