Since mid-June Freddie Freeman has been on the longest and most productive stretch of hitting in his career, and he’s only gotten better since the addition of veteran slugger Matt Kemp behind him in the fourth spot in the order.
Freeman entered Thursday’s series finale with a 30-game hitting streak that was the longest in the majors this season and a 46-game on-base streak that was the longest by a Brave since Gary Sheffield’s Atlanta-record 52-gamer in 2002. The on-base streak began four days after Kemp joined the Braves, coming over in a trade from San Diego.
“I love him,” said Freeman, who likes not just what Kemp brings to the lineup, but how well and how quickly the bonded with teammates. “I’ve heard nothing but good things coming into it, too. I saw that Players Tribune article where he wrote he’s had a (bad reputation) label, and I haven’t seen it. He’s been nothing but great.
“He’s been a big plus for us.”
Kemp had a double and a two-run homer in Wednesday’s 12-2 rout of the Phillies and was batting .289 with 14 doubles, 11 homers, 37 RBIs and a .341 OBP and .522 slugging percentage in 52 games since the trade to Atlanta.
The Braves were 28-24 in those games and ranked third in the majors in runs (5.3 per game) and tied for second in batting average (.282) since Kemp’s arrival.
As for Freeman, he’s been on fire for 3 ½ months, going from worst two-month start of his career to his best season. Before Thursday, Freeman was batting .351 with 62 extra-base hits (24 homers), a 1.132 OPS and 70 RBIs in 93 games since June 13, after hitting .242 with a .750 OPS and 18 RBIs in 61 games through June 12.
His numbers during the 46-game on-base streak before Thursday were jaw-dropping: .390 (64-for-164) with 17 doubles, 15 homers, 45 RBIs, 41 walks, 39 strikeouts, .512 OBP, .768 slugging percentage.
“Mallex (Smith) came up to me yesterday, Mallex was in the hole or whatever (about to bat), he said, ‘I would never throw that guy a strike,’” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s amazing. Pretty impressive is an understatement.”
The fact that Freeman has continues his streaks against expanded rosters, facing plenty of pitchers he’s rarely if ever seen before and with managers mixing and matching with extensive bullpens, makes it even more impressive, Snitker said.
According the Elias Sports Bureau, Freeman became just the ninth major leaguer to have a hitting streak of 30 or more games in a season with at least 30 homers, joining an illustrious group that included Rogers Hornsby (1922), Joe DiMaggio (1941), Nomar Garciaparra (1997), Vladimir Guerrero (1999), Albert Pujols (2003), Chase Utley (2006), Ryan Zimmerman (2009) and former Braves teammate Dan Uggla (2011).
Freeman’s hit streak was the longest in the majors since Uggla’s Atlanta-record 33-game streak in 2011.
Freeman has hit .385 or higher against seven of 19 teams the Braves faced this season including three of four division opponents: .385 average, .481 OBP and .738 slugging percentage with 11 extra-base hits (six homers) in 18 games vs. Phillies (before Thursday); .395/.439/.605 with 12 extra-base hits (two homers) in 19 games vs. Mets, and .385.481/.631 with nine extra-base hits (three homers) in 18 games vs. Marlins.
The Braves have winning records against all three of those teams, but only a 4-15 record vs. the Nationals. (Freeman hit .271/.386/.508 with eight extra-base hits (three homers) and 12 RBIs in 16 games vs. the Nationals.