ATLANTA — Thanks to a skilled and unselfish swing from Freddie Freeman, the Braves again showed the enhanced length of their lineup and matched a season-high four-game winning streak with an 8-4 victory over the Nationals on Friday night at Truist Park.
Down a run with two outs and one on in the fifth, Freeman didn’t attempt to play home run hero. The reigning National League MVP instead took advantage of the hole on the infield’s left side and beat the shift by lacing an opposite-field ground ball single. This accounted for the first of four straight hits the Braves recorded off of Erick Fedde in a three-run frame.
When Freeman came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, he showed his ability to hit to all fields by lacing a two-run single to right field. The 31-year-old first baseman was hitting .224 with a .784 OPS on June 10. In the 51 games that have followed, he has hit an MLB-best .367 with a 1.014 OPS.
“[Freeman] is not up there thinking he has to do it all, which is a really good thing for him,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I think he knows those guys behind him, or those two guys, three guys, or four guys behind him are swinging that bat pretty good too.”
After Atlanta tallied six two-out runs in Thursday night’s comeback win in St. Louis, Snitker said it felt like his team had regained its late-inning mojo. A second straight decisive two-out rally should further invigorate the new-look Braves, who have won five of six since adding last week’s Trade Deadline acquisitions to their roster.
The Braves now sit one game behind the first-place Phillies and a half-game behind the second-place Mets in the National League East.
“We’ve got a lot of ballgames to play,” third baseman Austin Riley said. “This thing’s not anywhere near being over. We’ve just got to continue to come out here and play the baseball we know we’re capable of playing. We’re right there in the hunt.”
One of the newcomers, Adam Duvall, gave the Braves an early lead with his two-out, two-run single in the first. After allowing four hits in the opening frame, Fedde found a groove and retired 13 of the next 14 batters. He was bidding for a perfect fifth before Jorge Soler reached via catcher’s interference with two outs.
This set the stage for Freeman, who went down to get Fedde’s first-pitch sinker. His willingness to extend the inning with a single in that situation was likely a product of Riley swinging a hot bat and the Braves having a much deeper lineup than they did before the Trade Deadline.
“He’s the ultimate team player,” said Riley. “Whatever the situation is, he’s gonna take it and not try to do too much. You’ve seen him time and time again be able to go the other way. And when he needs to, he’s not afraid to yank it.”
Riley followed Freeman’s single with a game-tying single, and then advanced when the surging Dansby Swanson hustled his way to an inning-extending RBI infield single that gave the Braves the lead. Duvall then added an insurance run with an RBI double to help keep the Braves ahead for good.
“We can pop off at any second,” starter Kyle Muller said. “Any inning, we could go for a couple runs or a couple home runs.”
Over the past 25 games, dating back to July 7, the Braves have received great production from Riley (1.150 OPS), Freeman (1.074) and Swanson (1.023). The lineup has also been bolstered by the acquisitions of Joc Pederson (.887 OPS in 20 games for Atlanta), Soler (7-for-23 with a pair of homers since being acquired) and Duvall, who drilled a key homer in Tuesday’s comeback win over the Cardinals.
As Freeman bids to win a second straight MVP award and help the Braves claim a fourth straight division title, he has the comfort of knowing he is surrounded by plenty of help.
“He’s Freddie,” Riley said. “He does it day in and day out. Going up there on deck, you kind of expect it because he’s so good. It’s awesome to hit behind him and watch him.”