ATLANTA (AP) — Max Fried credits time spent in the bullpen with helping his mentality as he becomes more confident in his talent and more aggressive with his approach.
Now the Braves’ young left-hander doesn’t want to go back to a relief role.
Fried took a perfect game into the sixth inning, Nick Markakis drove in five runs with five hits and Atlanta beat Yu Darvish and the Chicago Cubs 9-4 on Thursday night to complete a three-game sweep.
Fried said he has learned to “just trust my stuff.”
Fried mixed his fastball clocked at 97 mph with a curve and slider and threw them all for consistent strikes.
“When a kid figures something out with all that assortment, then you’re really got something,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Fried (1-0) made a strong bid to keep a spot in Atlanta’s rotation after Kevin Gausman and Mike Foltynewicz come off the injured list. Gausman is expected to make his debut against Miami on Friday night, and Foltynewicz, a 2018 All-Star, could return in about 10 days.
Making only his 10th career start and his first this season after two scoreless relief appearances, the 25-year-old Fried recorded 17 straight outs to open the game. Mark Zagunis singled up the middle with two outs in the sixth to become Chicago’s first baserunner.
Fried allowed one hit with no walks and five strikeouts in six innings.
The Braves led 9-0 before the Cubs scored four runs in the ninth. Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer and Javier Baez followed with another homer off Chad Sobotka.
The Cubs have lost five straight and are 1-5 for the first time since 2012, when they lost 101 games.
“It sucks but that’s the beauty of this game,” Rizzo said. “We get to come in tomorrow and write our own script.”
Three Chicago relievers gave up six runs in four innings.
“We’ve just got to get our bullpen in order,” manager Joe Maddon said.
It was a troubling series for the Cubs, who committed six errors in an 8-0 loss on Monday night and walked five batters in the eighth inning of a 6-4 loss on Wednesday night.
Darvish (0-1) gave up three runs on five hits and four walks, one intentional, in four-plus innings. He set a career high with seven walks in his first start at Texas on Saturday.
Right-hander Carl Edwards Jr. walked two batters and threw a wild pitch that allowed Inciarte to score from third. Tyler Chatwood allowed the three-run double to Markakis and a run-scoring single to Dansby Swanson.
Braves left-hander A.J. Minter, making his 2019 debut after coming off the injured list, walked two batters before recording the final two outs in the ninth.
Light rain began in the second inning and continued most of the game.
Cubs: C Willson Contreras remained in the game after apparently having his left thumb jammed while tagging out Ozzie Albies in the fourth. Contreras blocked the plate, and Albies made a head-first slide into the catcher’s glove.
Braves: Minter had been out with left shoulder inflammation. ... Foltynewicz (right elbow bone spur) did not allow a hit or a run in five innings of his first of two planned rehab starts with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Darvish was removed after giving up a leadoff double to Ender Inciarte and a walk to Josh Donaldson in the fifth. He said his pitches “were coming out better ... and then my mind is better, too.”
GET WELL, SKIPPER
The Braves placed large get-well cards for former manager Bobby Cox at three locations for fans to sign. One of the 4-foot wide cards was placed near Cox’s statue outside SunTrust Park. Cox, the Hall of Fame former manager, suffered a stroke on Tuesday and remains in an Atlanta-area hospital. No details about Cox’s condition have been released by his family or the team.
The three-run double by Markakis was the big hit in Atlanta’s five-run fifth inning. Markakis matched his career high with three doubles and five hits. “It’s a good feeling, especially when you’re helping the team,” he said.
The Cubs will continue their nine-game road trip when they open a series at NL Central rival Milwaukee on Friday night with LHP Jose Quintana looking for his first win.
The Braves remain home to open a series against NL East rival Miami. Gausman is expected to come off the injured list for his 2019 debut after recovering from right shoulder tendinitis.