PHOENIX – He hasn’t felt good at the plate for the past couple of weeks, but Freddie Freeman’s rally-starting homer off Giants closer Santiago Casilla in the ninth inning Sunday was the Braves first baseman’s second in three days off a pitcher who’s given up only one other homer this season.
Now, Freeman is set to play three games at a ballpark that’s one of his favorite places to hit, Chase Field, against an Arizona team that he’s pretty much punished throughout his career.
“Hopefully I can carry the momentum of hitting that homer, and obviously the last one, too -- a couple of days ago to center field -- hopefully I can carry that into Arizona,” said Freeman, whose home run Sunday sparked a four-run rally that lifted the Braves to a stirring, 7-5 win against the Giants, earning a split of the four-game series against the defending World Series champions and evending Atlanta’s record at the 50-game mark (25-25), to the surprise of many.
Freeman has a .400 average (20-for-50) with seven doubles, three homers and 13 RBIs in 12 games at Chase Field, where he’s posted his highest average and slugging percentage (.720) at any ballpark where he’s played more than five games.
He’s hit .396 overall in 24 games against the Diamondbacks, with 18 extra-base hits, 25 RBIs and a .434 OBP and .719 slugging percentage, his highest average and second-highest slugging percentage against any team he’s faced more than three times.
Freeman has eight extra-base hits (three homers) and 12 RBIs in a current 10-game hitting streak against the Dbacks dating to mid-May 2013.
Jace Peterson’s three-run triple was the decisive blow that gave the the Braves their first win this season in 23 games when they trailed after eight innings, and handed the Giants the first loss for the defending World Series champions in 26 games this season when they led after eight ining. It also denied the Giants what would’ve been their first 22-win month in 61 years.
The Braves, after batting .188 with two homers and just 13 runs in a 3-5 stretch through the first two games of the Giants series, hit .299 with three homers while outscoring the Giants 15-5 in the last two games of the series.
Freeman wasn’t in the lineup Sunday for the first time in 218 games, as manager Fredi Gonzalez made the decision to give him a breather in an effort to help Freeman get back on track with his swing. But he said he would bring Freeman in for the late innings if the Braves had a lead, and sure enough he brought him in at the bottom of the seventh inning when they were up 5-3.
Julio Teheran gave up a leadoff double that inning, and reliever Donnie Veal had another woeful outing, giving up an RBI single and a two-run homer to put the Giants ahead 5-3 and provide the final straw for the journeyman lefty to to get designated for assignment Monday. (Cody Martin has been recalled from Triple-A to take his bullpen spot.
But the Braves weren’t done. They roared back in the ninth, with Freeman’s one-out homer cutting the lead to a run sending a jolt of energy through the dugout, where Andrelton Simmons said the Braves knew they had a good chance now with the lead cut to a run. Simmons followed with a walk, and Christian Bethancourt hit a routine grounder that shortstop Brandon Crawford booted, getting no outs instead of a would-be game-ending double play.
And the Braves took full advantage of the mistake, as A.J. Pierzysnki flipped a single over the head of the second baseman and in front of the charging right fielder to load the bases, and Peterson cleared them with his second triple in as many nights, following his career-first three-hit game Saturday.
“Freddie got the home run and got it going,” Peterson said. “Simmons had a great at-bat, drew a walk. Bethancourt put it in play, and when you put it in play, good things happen. And then A.J. got a hit. I had the bases loaded, went out, put a good swing on it, and it worked out good for us.”
To say the least, it worked out for them. As did the pseudo day off for Freeman, even if he would’ve preferred to play the whole game and tried to talk his way into the lineup after being told of Gonzalez’s plan a day before to rest him in the series finale.
“I’m not a big fan of it, I like to be in there for the whole game,” Freeman said. “But it was a good comeback win by us today against a really good team. I hope we can take that momentum and take it into Arizona.”
Freeman went 1-for-11 with seven strikeouts in a three-game stretch including the last two games of the Dodgers series that started the current 10-game trip and the opener at San Francisco. He’s gone 3-for-10 with two homers since, but Freeman was 1-for-5 with three strikeouts Saturday, and said his swing felt all messed up again in that game, which came between the two games in which he homered.
Freeman was asked what provided the mental break for him Sunday, the 6 ½ innings he didn’t play or the big home run that he hit.
“Yeah, I think it’s the homer,” he said, smiling. “Mental breaks can come on (team) off days. I’m not a big fan of (not starting a game). But I guess it was a good idea today.”
• Tonight’s matchup: It’s Alex Wood (3-2, 3.50 ERA) against Diamondbacks rookie righty Archie Bradley (2-2, 5.28), and there’s an interesting dynamic that will be tested in this one.
You see, Wood is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in six road starts, compared to 0-2 with a 6.19 ERA in three home starts. Meanwhile, Bradley is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three home starts, compared to 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA in four road starts.
Wood struggled some to start the season, but he’s been on a roll lately, going 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in his past three starts, including back-to-back wins in which he’s allowed seven hits and one run in seven innings in each of his past two starts, at Miami and last week at Dodger Stadium.
The lefty is 0-1 with a 2.00 ERA in four games (one start) against the Diamondbacks. The start was in July 2014 at Turner Field, where he limited them to three hits, two runs and three walks in seven innings, including a homer by Paul Goldschmidt, who’s 2-for-2 with a walk against Wood.
No Brave has faced Bradley, who pitched well in four starts before a stint on the 15-day DL, but is 0-2 with an 11.81 ERA in three starts since returning.
Here's a great tune from Nick Lowe, who's still going strong and has had a run of strong albums late in his career.
“I’M A MESS” by Nick Lowe
I should be filling rooms with the sweet smell of success
I'm a mess look at what I've been reduced to
I don't blame you for sayin' no when you should have said yes
But darlin', darlin', darlin', look at me now I'm a mess
I'm a mess, I'm a wreck
I'm really on the deck
I'm a mess, look at how I'm living
Some of these days I'm gonna get back on my feet and quit this blue address
But darlin', darlin', darlin', in the meantime I'm a mess
The smart set, I used to run around with are invisible now
They all cut me loose when one said that what I've got might just rub of on
I'm a mess, for want of your caress
Darlin', darlin', darlin', look at me now I'm a mess