Braves’ top prospect Pache to debut Friday against Phillies

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The Atlanta Braves will give their top prospect his first career start on Friday when they host Philadelphia for the opener of a three-game series between the two N.L. East rivals.

Outfielder Cristian Pache, the organization’s No. 1-rated prospect, will start in left field. He was penciled in the lineup on Thursday, but that game against the Washington Nationals was rained out.

Pache, 21, is considered an elite defender — he’s even drawn comparisons to Andruw Jones — and is eventually expected to become the club’s everyday center fielder. He was called up when right fielder Nick Markakis was placed on the injured list as a precaution after being exposed to someone with COVID-19. Markakis has tested negative.

“His defensive talents are what really stand out,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Just the progression he’s made. The maturity we’ve seen from this kid from three years ago when he started coming to spring training. He’s bigger, stronger. The ball is starting to jump off his bat better. Everybody who sees him is impressed with the kid and his talents. I’m excited to watch him.”

Pache’s debut will come in a game that matches a pair of aces — Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola (2-1, 2.05 ERA) vs. Atlanta’s Max Fried (3-0, 1.24).

Atlanta did not play on Thursday. The Braves had their game against Washington rained out on Wednesday. Philadelphia dropped both games of a makeup doubleheader against Toronto on Thursday and have lost three in a row. The two teams have split four games this season.

Nola has enjoyed great success against the Braves throughout his career, going 11-5 with a 2.82 ERA in 19 career starts against Atlanta. He was excellent against the Braves on Aug. 10 when he allowed only one run on two hits over eight innings, striking out 10.

Nola’s last start came against the New York Mets on Aug. 15. He pitched seven shutout innings and struck out eight. At one point he retired 13 straight batters. Nola has thrown 13 straight scoreless innings, the longest since he had a 22-inning stretch in 2019.

“I always try to pitch deep in the game,” Nola said. “I wanted to go at least seven innings to save the bullpen. As starters, we want to put that on our backs.”

Fried pitched the Braves to a 2-1 win over Miami in his last start on Aug. 15. He pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings, scattered four hits and struck out seven. He has become the team’s No. 1 arm since the season-ending injury to Mike Soroka.

“He’s just a man on a mission out there,” Snitker said. “It was fun to watch.”

Fried will be making his sixth start of the season and enters the game with an 11 1/3 inning scoreless streak. In 10 career appearances against Philadelphia, four starts, he is 2-2 with a 4.55 ERA. He beat the Phillies on Aug. 9 in the second game of a doubleheader swept by Atlanta, throwing five shutout innings with four hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

“I feel so good with him on the mound,” Snitker said. “It’s been something that has been really fun to watch. He has a chance to be really good for a long time.”

–Field Level Media

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