Braves’ Max Fried looks to maintain mastery of Cubs

Max Fried will try to extend his unbeaten streak against Chicago on Wednesday night when the Atlanta Braves visit the Cubs for the second contest of their three-game series.

The Cubs won the opener 4-3 in 10 innings on Tuesday to tie the season series at 2-2.

Wednesday’s game will feature Fried (3-2, 3.81 ERA) against Chicago’s Justin Steele (0-1, 5.21) in a battle of left-handers.

Fried is 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA in five career starts against the Cubs and is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts at Wrigley Field.

Fried wasn’t as sharp in his most recent outing — Friday against San Diego — as he was during his seven no-hit innings against the New York Mets on May 11. Fried was lifted after 4 1/3 innings vs. the Padres after giving up three runs on nine hits, three walks and striking out only two.

Steele lost for the first time this season in his most recent start, on Thursday against Pittsburgh. He allowed five runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings of Chicago’s 5-4 loss. It was Steele’s third start since spending March 29-May 6 on the injured list with a left hamstring strain.

Since the beginning of the 2022 season, Steele is 15-8 with a 2.74 ERA in 34 starts at Wrigley Field. He is 2-0 with a 4.32 ERA in four career appearances (three starts) against Atlanta. Steele started twice vs. the Braves in 2023, going 1-0 with a 5.06 ERA. He has won his last two starts against the Braves at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs benefited Tuesday from the return of injured shortstop Dansby Swanson (sprained knee), who came off the injured list to get a pair of hits and score a run.

“It was a great night,” Swanson said. “I’m so grateful for the staff we have here to just keep me focused and locked in and keep me focused on the right things. This team just finds a way to win. You can’t say enough about the character that we have here.”

The Braves continue to struggle on offense. They were 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base in the series opener. In 17 games in May, the Braves are averaging only 3.18 runs a game.

“It’s one of those things when we’re eventually going to get a big hit,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “When you get in a situation like this, they get up there, and human nature is to try too hard instead of just relaxing and letting it flow. They all want to be the guy to do it.”

Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a 1-for-4 performance. But he made a crucial base-running mistake in the 10th inning, running into the second out at third base to kill the Braves’ best opportunity.

Atlanta appears to be no closer to getting third baseman Austin Riley back from a the left side tightness that has kept him out for eight games. But catcher Sean Murphy, out since March 30 with a left oblique strain, is on a rehab assignment at Triple A Gwinnett and hit a home run on Tuesday.

–Field Level Media