NEW YORK — With their eyes on a third consecutive division title, the power-packed Atlanta Braves got their top starter back on the mound and made it an awfully easy night for him.
Freddie Freeman added three more hits to his burgeoning National League MVP campaign, Ozzie Albies clubbed two of Atlanta's six homers in the game, and the Braves battered the New York Mets' pitching Friday in a 15-2 blowout that expanded their lead in the NL East standings.
Max Fried (7-0) returned from a brief stay on the injured list — forced by a back spasm — and breezed through five innings that added to his Cy Young Award credentials. The left-hander hasn't allowed a home run since Sept. 10, 2019.
"To get Maxi back out there probably made everyone feel good," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Freeman laced a two-run double and Marcell Ozuna followed with a long two-run homer in the second inning off Steven Matz (0-5), who was handed his latest drubbing in a lost season as he came back from shoulder discomfort.
"For it to go this way again is just really frustrating," said Matz, who has a 9.79 ERA.
Atlanta pounded out 17 hits and opened a 3 1/2-game lead over the second-place Miami Marlins, who split a doubleheader wit the Washington Nationals. The Braves have nine games remaining in the regular season, the Marlins 10.
"To get Max some run support was huge, especially in his first start," said catcher and cleanup man Travis d'Arnaud, who had three hits and two walks against his former team, including a two-run homer.
The most effective pitcher for the Mets was veteran third baseman Todd Frazier, who tossed a 1-2-3 ninth in his first appearance on the mound as an MLB player. He struck out Adam Duvall looking at a 55 mph curve.
New York fell 2 1/2 games out of the final NL spot in Major League Baseball's expanded playoffs.
Nine days after setting an NL record for runs since 1900 in a 29-9 romp against the Marlins, the Braves appeared eager to threaten the mark as d'Arnaud and Albies each hit a two-run homer in a six-run fourth against Franklyn Kilome. Nick Markakis had a two-run double.
Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley also went deep for Atlanta. Acuna doubled and scored three times from the leadoff spot, snapping an 0-for-18 slide.
Fried was reinstated from the 10-day IL on Thursday, and Atlanta optioned right-hander Bryse Wilson to its alternate training site.
"Obviously, great to be out there. I wanted to try to have quick innings, especially when we got on the board real quick," Fried said. "I didn't feel as sharp as I probably thought I should have."
With the Mets needing a solid performance from their ragged rotation to rest an overtaxed bullpen, Matz couldn't deliver in his first start and second appearance since Aug. 15. He gave up hits to the first four batters and needed 76 pitches to get through 2 2/3 innings.
"The game got separated really early," Mets manager Luis Rojas said. "A lot of pitches up in the zone and not finishing his pitches."
New York's past three starters, Jacob deGrom, Seth Lugo and Matz, have combined to give up 15 earned runs and 20 hits in 6 1/3 innings. The Mets rallied to win the previous two games in Philadelphia anyway, but they were never in this one.
Atlanta rookie right-hander Ian Anderson (3-0, 1.64 ERA) will make his fifth MLB start Saturday night.
The 22-year-old Anderson, drafted third overall in 2016, went to high school in Clifton Park, about 170 miles north of Citi Field, but was a Boston Red Sox fan like his dad. Anderson said he has two brothers living in New York City, though with no fans permitted at the ballpark because of the coronavirus, his family and friends won't get the chance to see him pitch in person.
"It definitely would be nice to have them down here," he said. "They would all love to be here."