ATLANTA – Max Fried knew his night was about done.
So, with the final pitch of the most dominating performance of his big league career, he unleashed a 96 mph fastball.
“Just leave it all out there,” Fried said. “If he got me, he got me.”
No worries. Juan Soto swung and missed.
Fried allowed just one baserunner over seven innings — an infield single in the first — to push the Atlanta Braves a step closer to their second straight NL East title, beating Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals 4-2 in the opener of a four-game series between the division’s top teams Thursday night.
“I felt really good,” Fried said. “I know how important this series is.”
The only player to reach base against Fried (16-4) was Anthony Rendon, who beat out an infield dribbler with two outs in the first. After that, the left-hander retired the last 19 hitters he faced with nine strikeouts, needing just 90 pitches to breeze past the Nationals.
“He just seemed to have it all,” said Trea Turner, Washington’s leadoff hitter.
After Fried was lifted for a pinch hitter, Shane Green eased through the eighth allowing only a walk. Mark Melancon made things interesting in the ninth, giving up a two-run homer to Victor Robles and a single to Juan Soto that brought the potential tying run to the plate. Howie Kendrick grounded out to end the game, dropping Washington eight games back in the East.
“I gave it everything I had,” Strasburg said. “It just wasn’t good enough tonight. Sometimes that happens.”
The Braves jumped on Strasburg (16-5) for two runs in the first, sparked by Ronald Acuna Jr.’s leadoff single. He added to the lead with a mammoth homer in the fifth, launching one into the Chop House restaurant for his 37th homer. Right fielder Michael A. Taylor took only a couple of steps before stopping to watch the ball sail into the dinner crowd.
“It’s huge,” Acujna said through a translator. “We already have a playoff atmosphere that is fun to play in.”
Strasburg turned in another strong outing, giving up just four hits before he was pulled after the sixth. He walked four and struck out seven.
The wild card-leading Nationals likely needed to win at least three of four in SunTrust Park to have any chance to chasing down the Braves and avoid that dreaded wild-card playoff game. Thanks to Fried, the task got even harder.
“That was as good as it gets,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “He had it all working tonight. Throwing any pitch in any count. Got ahead. Stayed on the attack.”
Marlins 10, Pirates 7
In Pittsburgh, Brian Moran became the first player in major league history to make his debut while on the mound facing his brother, striking out younger sibling Colin in Miami’ s victory over the hosts.
Brian Moran (1-0) entered in the fourth inning with the Marlins trailing 5-2. After Bryan Reynolds led off with a groundout, Colin Moran stepped to the plate having doubled in each of his first two at-bats.
The 30-year-old Brian fell behind 3-1 before throwing back-to-back sliders to strike out Colin looking. The 26-year-old Colin shouted toward the mound on his way back to the dugout. Moran hit Josh Bell with a pitch and then got Melky Cabrera to fly out in his only inning of work.
Miami rallied for four runs in the fifth, allowing Brian to get the win. Colin finished 2-for-4.
They became the first siblings to face each other in a pitcher-batter scenario with one of the brothers making his major league debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Dario Agrazal (4-4) surrendered six runs, five earned, in 4 1/3 innings.
Cubs 10, Brewers 5
In Milwaukee, Kyle Schwarber’s grand slam off Drew Pomeranz capped a five-run sixth inning for Chicago in the opener of a crucial four-game series with the Brewers.
Third-place Milwaukee dropped 7½ games behind first-place St. Louis in the NL Central and five back of the Cubs for the second wild card. Chicago remained 2½ games behind the Cardinals.
The Cubs loaded the bases with one out in the sixth on two singles and a walk against Matt Albers (5-5), and Anthony Rizzo hit a sacrifice fly off Pomeranz for a 5-4 lead.
Jose Quintana (13-8) allowed four runs and in five innings to improve to 9-1 in his last 12 starts.
Astros 11, Mariners 9 (13)
In Houston, Michael Brantley belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Astros a triumph over Seattle in a game they trailed by seven runs.
Houston rookie Kyle Tucker hit his first major league homer in the sixth and tied it at 9-9 in the 12th with an RBI single. Josh Reddick also went deep and Jose Altuve had a two-run triple for the AL West leaders, who were down 7-0 in the second.
White Sox 7, Indians 1
In Cleveland, Reynaldo Lopez (9-12) pitched a one-hitter for his first complete game in 75 career big league starts, and the Indians lost for the fifth time in seven games.
Cleveland fell 6½ games behind the AL Central-leading Twins heading into a three-game series at Minnesota.
Lopez allowed an RBI double in the second to Kevin Plawecki.
Welington Castillo hit a two-run homer in the second off Zach Plesac (7-6), who allowed six runs in five-plus innings. Adam Engel hit a two-run single in the sixth off Hunter Wood that made it 6-1.
In Other Games
Cardinals 10, Giants 0
Reds 4, Phillies 3
Athletics 10, Angels 6
Twins 2, Red Sox 1
Rays 6, Blue Jays 4
Tigers 6, Royals 4
Rangers 3, Orioles 1
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5