- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) - Eyeing a third consecutive NL East crown, the power-packed Atlanta Braves got their top starter back and made it an awfully easy night for him.

Freddie Freeman added three more hits to his burgeoning MVP campaign, Ozzie Albies clubbed two of Atlanta’s six homers and the Braves battered New York Mets pitching Friday in a 15-2 blowout that expanded their division lead.

Max Fried (7-0) returned from a brief stay on the injured list due to a back spasm and breezed through five innings that only help his Cy Young Award credentials. The left-hander hasn’t allowed a home run since Sept. 10 last year.

“To get Maxi back out there probably made everyone feel good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Freeman laced a two-run double and Marcell Ozuna followed with a long two-run homer in the second off Steven Matz (0-5), dealt his latest drubbing in a lost season as he came back from shoulder discomfort.



“For it to go this way again is just really frustrating,” said Matz, who has a 9.79 ERA.

Atlanta pounded out 17 hits and opened a 3 1/2-game lead over second-place Miami, which split a doubleheader with Washington. The Braves have nine games remaining, the Marlins 10.

“To get Max some run support was huge, especially in his first start,” said catcher and cleanup man Travis d’Arnaud, who had three hits and two walks against his former team - including a two-run homer in his first game as a visitor at Citi Field.

The most effective pitcher for the Mets was veteran third baseman Todd Frazier, who tossed a 1-2-3 ninth in his first career appearance on the mound. He struck out Adam Duvall looking at a 55 mph knuckler.

New York began its final homestand with a dud and fell 2 1/2 games out of the last NL playoff spot.

Nine days after setting a National League record for runs since 1900 in a 29-9 romp against the Marlins, the Braves appeared ready to threaten the mark as d’Arnaud and Albies each hit a two-run homer in a six-run fourth against Franklyn Kilome that made it 12-0. Nick Markakis had a two-run double.

“Obviously, great to be out there. I wanted to try to have quick innings, especially when we got on the board real quick,” Fried said. “I didn’t feel as sharp as I probably thought I should have.”

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Austin Riley also connected as Atlanta made it look like batting practice all night. Albies and Acuña went back-to-back in the sixth, giving Albies his fifth career multi-homer game and first this season.

The Braves have 42 home runs this month, one shy of the club record for September.

Acuña doubled and scored three times from the leadoff spot, snapping an 0-for-18 slide. Ozuna had three RBIs.

With the Mets needing a solid performance from their ragged rotation to rest an overtaxed bullpen, Matz couldn’t deliver in his first start and second appearance since Aug. 15. He gave up hits to the first four batters and needed 76 pitches to get through 2 2/3 innings.

“The game got separated really early,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “A lot of pitches up in the zone and not finishing his pitches.”

New York’s past three starters, Jacob deGrom, Seth Lugo and Matz, have combined to give up 15 earned runs and 20 hits in 6 1/3 innings. The Mets rallied to win the previous two games in Philadelphia anyway, but were never in this one at all.

LUCKY SEVEN

The previous Braves starter to begin a season 7-0 was Denny Neagle in 1997.

LAME DUCK?

Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said nothing has changed for him on a day-to-day basis and he hasn’t spoken with Steve Cohen since Monday’s announcement that the billionaire hedge fund manager has agreed to buy the club from the Wilpon and Katz families. The deal is subject to the approval of Major League Baseball owners. Van Wagenen, who reiterated he doesn’t think about his own job security, said he and Cohen had a chance to sit down and get to know each other a bit last winter and talk about ideas and philosophies.

“I know he’s competitive,” Van Wagenen said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: Fried was reinstated from the 10-day injured list Thursday, and Atlanta optioned RHP Bryse Wilson to its alternate training site.

Mets: After leaving Wednesday night’s outing in Philadelphia with a right hamstring spasm, deGrom threw a side session Friday and felt good, Rojas said. The team will see how the two-time Cy Young Award winner feels Saturday before determining if he will stay on schedule, which would give him two more starts this season. … 2B Robinson Canó was hit near the left wrist by a 92 mph sinker from Fried in the fourth and removed in the sixth. X-rays were negative and Rojas said Canó is fine. … RHP Dellin Betances (right lat tightness) faced hitters Thursday at the alternate site. “I heard he’s doing great,” Rojas said. … Kilome, sidelined since Sept. 2 with a split fingernail, was activated from the injured list. INF Luis Guillorme was optioned to the alternate site.

UP NEXT

Braves: Rookie RHP Ian Anderson (3-0, 1.64 ERA) makes his fifth major league start Saturday night. The 22-year-old Anderson, drafted third overall in 2016, went to high school in Clifton Park, about 170 miles north of Citi Field. But he was a Boston Red Sox fan, like his dad. Anderson said he has two brothers living in New York City, though with no fans permitted at the ballpark because of the coronavirus, his family and friends won’t get the chance to see him pitch in person. “It definitely would be nice to have them down here,” he said. “They would all love to be here.”

Mets: Rookie LHP David Peterson (4-2, 4.17 ERA), a first-round pick in 2017, tries to steady New York’s reeling rotation. Peterson allowed three runs over six innings and struck out a career-high eight Aug. 2 in a 4-0 loss at Atlanta.

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