A pair of elite pitchers who have worked their way back from injuries this season will square off Friday when the Los Angeles Dodgers host the Atlanta Braves in the second game of a National League showdown series.
Run production was on display in the series opener as the Braves held on for the 8-7 victory after leading by six runs at one point. The teams combined for seven home runs.
The statement blast made Acuna the first player in baseball history with at least 30 home runs and 60 stolen bases in a single season. He added his 62nd steal of the year in the ninth inning.
Urias (11-7, 4.41 ERA) was the NL ERA champion a season ago, but he has been unable to match that form in addition to missing six weeks in the first half with a hamstring injury. He has been hit and miss since returning, logging four outings in which he allowed one run or none, three in which he gave up two or three runs, and three in which he yielded five runs or more.
On Saturday at Boston, Urias gave up six runs on eight hits in six innings in an eventual 8-5 loss to the Red Sox.
"The team gave me the lead and I couldn't keep it," Urias told reporters in Spanish. "Obviously that's what hurts."
In five career regular-season appearances (three starts) against the Braves, Urias is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA. In four playoff appearances (two starts) vs. Atlanta, he is 2-1 with a 5.14 ERA.
Fried (5-1, 2.85 ERA) has fared much better in his return to action, even after missing three months with a left forearm strain. He came back Aug. 4, and in five August starts, he went 3-0 with a 3.58 ERA.
The Los Angeles-area native is 2-2 against the Dodgers with a 3.19 ERA in seven career regular-season starts. He is 0-2 with a 4.21 ERA in eight playoff appearances (four starts) vs. Los Angeles.
On Saturday, on the road against the San Francisco Giants, Fried gave up two runs on six hits over six innings to earn the win.
"He's one of the top guys in the game," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "This is his, what, fifth start (since returning)? I think, and you know, he's just going to continue to get better."
Like Urias, Fried was witness to the challenge ahead on Thursday. Mookie Betts hit two home runs, while Michael Busch and Max Muncy each added a long ball. Muncy tied a Dodgers record by collecting an extra-base hit in his ninth consecutive game.
Betts and Acuna are the favorites for the NL MVP, and they each put on a show in the first game of the series. Including his grand slam, Acuna had three hits and a walk. Betts now has 38 home runs and leads the NL with a 1.033 OPS.
"I'm not playing against Ronald Acuna, I'm playing against the Braves (and) we're trying to beat the Braves," Betts said. "He's a great, awesome person. Take nothing away from him, but I'm not playing against him."
—Field Level Media