Yankees left fielder Alex Verdugo returns to the dugout after...

Yankees left fielder Alex Verdugo returns to the dugout after he struck out swinging against Atlanta to end the fourth inning of an MLB game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Max Fried came out of the gates slowly this season.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone, however, said late Sunday morning that the lefthander had “settled right back into being Max Fried.”


“One of the game’s best,” Boone said.

That was the version of Fried the Yankees saw on Sunday afternoon in kiln-like conditions at the Stadium.

Fried dominated the Yankees through six innings in Atlanta’s 3-1 win in front of a crowd of 46,683 who sat through a sweltering afternoon in which the heat index reached 100.

Fried, who had a 4.02 ERA at the end of April but brought a 2.00 ERA in his previous 10 starts into Sunday, allowed one run and six hits in his 87-pitch outing. Two of those hits came off the bat of Trent Grisham, and Ben Rice also finished with two hits. Fried (7-3, 3.00 ERA) struck out four and did not walk a batter.

“Didn’t walk anyone, so he was dictating counts and he mixed his pitches well,” Boone said. “Four-seam, two-seam, cutter, slow you down with the big breaking ball, good changeup. Thought he threw the ball well.

“We obviously pressured him with some good at-bats in the sixth. Had a chance to break through, just couldn’t do it.”

The Yankees (52-28), who are off on Monday, have lost three straight series and seven of their last 10 games heading into the Subway Series, which starts on Tuesday night at Citi Field.

“Nobody’s hanging their heads, nobody’s panicking in here,” said Nestor Cortes, who allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings, including a two-out solo homer by former Mets prospect Jarred Kelenic in the third. “Just a rough patch that [over] 162 games you’re going to go through. Just have to figure out a way to get out of it.”

Cortes, who threw six scoreless innings in his previous start against the Orioles, wasn’t bad but just wasn’t quite good enough to match Fried. Cortes (4-6, 3.40) struck out seven and did not walk a batter.

“About as good of stuff as Nestor has had,” Boone said.

Atlanta relievers Pierce Johnson and Joe Jimenez each threw a scoreless inning to get the ball to closer Raisel Iglesias, who struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 20th save in 22 chances.

Cortes struck out the side in a 14-pitch first. Kelenic went down looking at a sinker and Ozzie Albies and Marcell Ozuna struck out swinging at cutters.

Cortes worked around a two-out hit-by-pitch in the second and retired the first two batters in the third before Kelenic, a first-round pick of the Mets in 2018, hit a first-pitch cutter into the seats in right for his seventh homer to put Atlanta up 1-0.

It stayed that way until the fifth, when Atlanta (43-32) added to its lead. Ramon Laureano singled with one out, went to third on Orlando Arcia’s double and scored on Kelenic’s sacrifice fly to center. Albies followed with an RBI single to right that made it 3-0.

The Yankees did not get a runner in scoring position until the sixth, when they got on the board.

Grisham led off with a single and Anthony Volpe doubled into the gap in left-center to drive him in. Juan Soto then chopped one to short, and Arcia fired to third to nab Volpe. The Yankees challenged but the call was confirmed. After Aaron Judge singled to put two runners on, Alex Verdugo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Boone, who thought third baseman Austin Riley didn’t give Volpe a lane to slide and that he should have been called safe, had no issue with his second-year shortstop — known as a good baserunner — taking off for third.

“It’s behind him,” Boone said of Volpe’s decision on the Soto grounder. “It’s actually a risky play on their part . . . a little bit of a roadblock over there at third; we’re not seeing that blocking the bag [a rule tweak in the offseason] being called much at all. It’s behind him [Volpe], turns into a really good play by Arcia. I don’t have a problem with it.”

With the ball hit behind him, Volpe said “that’s my instinct” to go to third. Afterward, he did not state with certainty that Riley blocked his access to the bag, instead saying it was “just a weird play.”

“I don’t know. I probably have to watch it again, but it’s a tough play,” Volpe said. “The angle I’m coming in at, the angle that’s he’s trying to get in the baseline. It’s a tough play.”

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