ATLANTA — Max Fried retired Tampa Bay's first 14 batters and then insisted it didn't feel like a special start.
Braves manager Brian Snitker had a different opinion.
Fried took a perfect game into the fifth inning and combined with three relievers on a four-hitter as Atlanta beat the Rays 2-1 on Thursday night.
Dansby Swanson had a run-scoring single in Atlanta’s two-run second inning.
Fried (1-0) struck out seven and walked one while allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings. The left-hander improved to 4-0 in four interleague starts.
“I wouldn’t say it was anything out of the ordinary that felt like anything extra special,” Fried said after lowering his ERA to 2.31 in two starts.
It looked special to Snitker.
“He’s just growing as a pitcher,” Snitker said. “He was efficient. You could tell he was locked in too. He was really focused. It was fun to sit and watch him.”
Luke Jackson, and Shane Greene combined for four outs before Mark Melancon pitched the ninth for his second save.
Left fielder Adam Duvall made a diving catch on the warning track of José Martinez’s drive off Melancon to open the ninth.
Following the catch, Brandon Lowe singled before pinch-runner Kevin Kiermaier was caught stealing without a slide on Tyler Flowers’ throw to second base. Melancon struck out Hunter Renfroe to end it.
The 26-year-old Fried struck out the side in the first to set the pace for his dominant start.
Ryan Yarbrough (0-1) allowed two runs on only two hits with three walks in 6 1/3 innings.
The Braves won two home games over the Rays after losing two in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said he remains confident his offense will come around.
“We’ve gone a time through the order and not put any pressure on the pitcher or the defense,” Cash said. “Our offense is going to be fine. We’re going to come around and be fine.”
Fried was perfect before Mike Brosseau hit a single up the middle with two outs in the fifth. Fried picked Brosseau off first base to end the inning.
Following Willy Adames’ two-out double off Fried in the seventh, pinch-hitter Ji-Man Choi hit Jackson’s first pitch to right field for a run-scoring single.
Swanson’s second-inning single drove in Marcell Ozuna, who singled and moved to second when Duvall was hit by a pitch. Ozuna scored with a head-first slide as he avoided Mike Zunino’s tag at the plate by reaching his hand to the plate.
Austin Riley’s sacrifice fly drove in Duvall.
The Braves’ two early runs placed Tampa Bay in a familiar position. The Rays have trailed in five straight games and six of their first seven.
Kiermaier said his baserunning mistake in the ninth “can't happen.”
“Simple answer, I did what you can’t do. I thought a foul ball was hit. I thought I heard the crack of the bat and it was his glove.
“You can’t do that. They put me in to steal a base and get in scoring position. I made a terrible mistake and it totally fooled me.”
Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz, who cleared waivers after being designated for assignment on Tuesday, will work on regaining his strength at the team’s alternate site at Triple-A Gwinnett. Foltynewicz showed a disturbing drop in velocity this season. “I hope if he’s not hurting or whatever he can get his stuff back,” said manager Brian Snitker. No team claimed Foltynewicz, whose 2020 contract for $6,425,000 included $2,379,630 for the remainder of the season.
Rays: Choi said through a translator “I feel great” before the game as he missed his second straight start after leaving Tuesday night’s game with a sore right shoulder. ... LHP Colin Poche had his second Tommy John surgery on his left elbow on Wednesday. The procedure was performed by Dr. Keith Meister in Arlington, Texas.
Rays: LHP Blake Snell is expected to be limited to no more than four innings as he makes his first start of the season in Friday night’s opening game of a three-game series at Baltimore. Meadows joined the team’s alternate site at Port Charlotte group on Saturday after a three-week absence following a positive test for the coronavirus. Snell said Thursday he expects to pitch “three-plus (innings) for sure.”
Braves: LHP Sean Newcomb will try again for his first win when Atlanta opens a four-game home series against the New York Mets.