SAN DIEGO — Max Fried was absolutely brilliant at just the right time for the Atlanta Braves and their push for a fourth consecutive National League East Division title.
Fried retired the last 18 batters he faced to finish off a three-hitter and the second shutout of his MLB career, and the first-place Braves beat the San Diego Padres 4-0 on Friday to split an unusual night of baseball.
A few hours earlier, after a rare San Diego rain delay, Fernando Tatis Jr. homered leading off the top of the seventh inning and the Padres beat the Braves 6-5 in the resumption of a game that was suspended due to rain in Atlanta on July 21.
The net effect was that the Braves' division lead over second-place Philadelphia is down to 1 1/2 games after the Phillies beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-6. The Phillies have won four straight games and eight of their past 10 to keep pressure on the Braves, who host Philadelphia in a three-game series next week.
San Diego had no chance against Fried (13-7), a Southern California native and former Padres farmhand whose only other nine-inning shutout came seven starts earlier, on Aug. 20 in Baltimore, a 3-0 win in which he held the Orioles to four hits He also went the distance in a game shortened to six innings by rain on Aug. 1, 2019, against the Cincinnati Reds.
"I definitely know that it felt really good," Fried said. "It felt like we really had the advantage today, especially the situation where we're at in the year."
Fried threw 98 pitches in winning his sixth straight decision in a stretch of 10 starts, and after the last out, he and catcher Travis d'Arnaud hugged near the first-base line. Fried, backed by solid defense all night, completely shut down the Padres after Tatis doubled leading off the bottom of the fourth. Fried struck out four batters and walked none as he induced 17 groundball outs.
Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson hit a two-run homer in the nightcap.
"That was a special performance," Swanson said of Fried. "He was awesome. That was like ace worthy, like super ace worthy, right? Especially at this point in the year, you need a big game against a team that's really talented, chasing the playoffs as well, and to do something like that is special.
"I counted three hard-hit balls tonight against him. He completely dominated."
The Padres continued to plummet toward the biggest collapse in franchise history and were pushed closer to playoff elimination with the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a two-team race for the NL West crown and locked into the postseason.
San Diego is seven games behind the St. Louis Cardinals — who tied a franchise record Friday with their 14th straight win — for the second NL wild card with eight games to play, and the Padres also trail Philadelphia and Cincinnati. The Padres had a one-game lead for the second wild card on Sept. 9.
Fried was masterful against the Padres, who traded him to Atlanta in a six-player deal that brought outfielder Justin Upton to San Diego on Dec. 19, 2014. It was one of many deals in the Padres' ill-fated attempt to win with high-priced veterans.
Fried pitched in front of several family members who came down from the Los Angeles area.
"It was special," he said. "Obviously with me being across the country, they don't get to see me in person a lot."
Fried hasn't lost since a July 28 road game against the New York Mets.
Swanson hit his 27th homer of the season with one out in the second off rookie Reiss Knehr (1-1). Austin Riley hit an RBI single in the first, and Adam Duvall drove in a run with a base hit in the sixth.
Knehr allowed three runs and five hits in four innings.
In the resumption of the suspended game, the Padres, wearing their home white uniforms, were the visiting team in their own ballpark. Tatis' 41st homer of the season, off Atlanta closer Will Smith, regained the lead for the Padres after Braves pinch-hitter Duvall tied it with a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth.
"You always feel good with Tatis at the plate," Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. "That was just a great at-bat. He was on some pitches, laid off some tough pitches, got it to 3-2, and to be able to drive the ball a touch right of center — impressive. But we've seen him do it. Huge at-bat."
Daniel Hudson (5-2) got the win and Mark Melancon pitched the seventh for his 38th save this year. Smith (3-9) took the loss.
On July 21, the Padres won the first game of a split doubleheader and were leading the second game 5-4 in the fifth inning when it was suspended after a weather delay of 3 hours, 3 minutes. Since it was at the end of a series, it was rescheduled for Friday in San Diego.
The teams still couldn't escape bad weather. A rare storm that brought rain, lightning and thunder to San Diego prompted a delay of 1 hour, 5 minutes.
"It is confirmed, we have a tarp. So that's good to know," Tingler said. "It felt like for a moment this game's not supposed to happen or whatever when it starts to rain in San Diego. But we got word that the storm was kind of moving out. We knew we were going to play, we just didn't know how much it was going to get pushed back."
Knehr was the starter in the game that was suspended. Hudson wasn't yet with the Padres, who picked him up at the trade deadline on July 30 as the Washington Nationals cleaned house.
The Braves' battery mates from that suspended game are no longer on the active roster. Bryse Wilson was traded to Pittsburgh on July 30, and catcher Stephen Vogt is on the injured list.