In light of the Atlanta Braves' rotation issues, left-hander Max Fried is being viewed as the savior of the pitching staff.
Fried, who will face the host Miami Marlins on Saturday night, led all National League lefties in wins last year, going 17-8 with a 4.02 ERA.
This year, he has been evenbetter, going 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in four starts. Batters are hitting just .169 against Fried, who lacks an overpowering fastball but has been dominant this year due to a biting curve and a sweeping slider.
Atlanta's top pitcher, Mike Soroka, is out for the season due to injury, and up-and-down starter Mike Foltynewicz was designated for assignment late last month. The Braves are lucky they've got Fried, and Atlanta fans are surely pleased with the trade the franchise made in December 2014.
Fried, the seventh overall pick in 2012, was the main prospect the San Diego Padres sent to the Braves in exchange for productive outfielder Justin Upton.
Last year was a breakthrough for Fried, even though he started the season in the bullpen. He then went on to make 30 starts.
Fried added a slider to his arsenal in 2019, but his curve goes way back to high school. He learned to throw it, in part, by watching old videos of Sandy Koufax, who in 1972 became the youngest player ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Koufax, who pitched for the Dodgers from 1955 to 1966, has a lot in common with Fried.
Both are lefties. Both are Jewish. And, both have that hard-biting curve.
"In my opinion, nothing will ever break like a Sandy Koufax curve," Fried told the Los Angeles Times. "Out of his hand, it looked like a fastball. At the last second, it dropped off, and hitters had no chance."
Fried, who said he admires Koufax for his pitching skill as well as his importance to the Jewish community, hopes to improve upon some poor career numbers against the Marlins.
In four starts against the Marlins, Fried is 0-1 with a 6.16 ERA, allowing 29 hits, including four homers, in 19 innings.
The Marlins, who started the season on a crazy 23-day road trip that included the postponement of eight games after 18 of their players tested positive for COVID-19, will start lefty Daniel Castano (0-1, 8.31 ERA) on Saturday.
It will be Castano's second major league start. The New York Mets beat him in his debut on Aug. 8, when he allowed five runs, four earned, in 4 1/3 innings.
Castano is in the Marlins' rotation because Miami's top three starters -- Sandy Alcantara, Jose Urena and Caleb Smith -- are all on the COVID-19 list.
But even with all their issues, the Marlins lead the NL East with a 9-4 record. They beat the Braves 8-2 on Friday night in the opener of the series, stealing four bases.
The Marlins also became the first team since the 1996 Kansas City Royals to steal home in consecutive games.
It's a shocking start for a Marlins organization that lost 105 games last year, the most in the NL.
The next step for the Marlins is improvement from rookie center fielder Monte Harrison, a great athlete who is batting just .111 with 11 strikeouts in 18 at-bats.
"This is a different league," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of the majors. "If you've got holes (in your swing), and pitchers find them, they're going to be pouring water in that hole until you close it up."
--Field Level Media