ATLANTA — Nearly a year ago to today, Max Fried took the mound with a chance to send the Braves to the World Series.
The left-hander put in solid work, limiting Los Angeles to three runs in 6 2/3 innings. But the Braves bats were quiet that night, and they fell 3-1. They would lose the next game, too, missing out on a golden chance to reach the World Series for the first time in more than 20 years.
Thursday night, Fried will get another crack at his old hometown team.
The Southern California native is Atlanta's Game 5 starter, with the Braves once again a win away from the Fall Classic.
Fried, who went to high school about 20 miles from Dodger Stadium, has been excellent in the postseason for the Braves so far this year. He's gone six innings deep in each of his two starts, both Braves wins. That includes a Game 1 win over the Dodgers in the NLCS at Truist Park, when he allowed two runs while striking out five in the six frames.
Last year, Fried also beat the Dodgers in Game 1, going six innings then as well with a run allowed and nine strikeouts.
The parallels between this NLCS and the 2020 NLCS run deep. The Braves and Dodgers have arrived at Game 5 through the exact same sequence as last year.
The difference this time around, Braves fans will be hoping, will be the support Fried gets. With a 5-1 record and 2.52 ERA as a playoff starter dating back to last year, the expectation is that the 27-year-old Atlanta ace will hold up his end of the bargain.
“Max Fried lives for these type of games," teammate Drew Smyly said last night, as reported by 11Alive's Maria Martin. “He’s one of the most prepared pitchers I’ve ever been around.”
Dave Roberts, the Dodgers manager, also acknowledged the difficulty Fried presents, saying “Not gonna be much tougher than facing Max Fried in an elimination game." But, he noted, "we’ve done it before.”
In dropping three straight games to lose they only mustered three runs. Then they scored one in Game 6, and three in losing Game 7.
This time around, Maria reports the feeling around the team is different. Players like Eddie Rosario and Joc Pederson have brought a different energy this series, and L.A. is preparing to treat Game 5 as a bullpen game.
Another difference is that, if the Braves lose tonight, they get to come back home for Games 6 and 7 - last year all the games were played at a neutral venue in Texas, due to the pandemic.
But if Fried is at his best Thursday night, he'll get to lead the Braves in celebration on his old home turf.