When Braves slugger Matt Kemp strained a hamstring April 7 and went on the disabled list, there was concern that Freddie Freeman, batting .235 with one extra-base hit and no RBIs through the first four games, might not see many good pitches without Kemp batting cleanup behind him.
Freeman has laid to rest that concern while pummeling opposing pitching like he did for the last 3 1/2 months of the 2016 season.
The Braves first baseman was 4-for-4 with two home runs, two doubles and three RBIs in the Braves’ 5-4 win Monday night that gave them a four-game sweep of the Padres in the first series at SunTrust Park, and gave Freeman a .400 batting average (18-for-45) and the majors’ second-highest slugging percentage (.867) and second-highest OPS (1.347) before Tuesday night’s series opener against the Nationals.
Then he went 2-for-2 with two singles and two walks against the Nats to stretch his streak of reaching base to 10 consecutive plate appearances, one off the Atlanta Braves record by Jeff Burroughs in April 1978.
Freeman was the third player in Atlanta-era Braves history to have two doubles and two homers in a game, joining Felipe Alou (1966) and Adam LaRoche (2009).
Two days after Kemp got hurt, Freeman had four hits and two homers in a series finale at Pittsburgh to begin a tear that saw him go 13-for-24 (.542) with four doubles, five homers and a ridiculous 1.954 OPS in the past seven games before Tuesday.
“He just keeps going,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I mean, that’s just how good the guy is. And we’ve known it for a while. He’s in a good place right now.”
If anyone is surprised that Freeman has been on such a torrid run while Kemp’s been on the 10-day DL, well, Kemp isn’t among them.
“I’ve never been surprised,” Kemp said Tuesday. “He’s a superstar, man. I’ve never been (surprised).”
Kemp is expected to play a minor-league rehab game Wednesday at Triple-A Gwinnett, then rejoin the Braves’ lineup. Meanwhile, Freeman continues to hit at or even ahead of the jaw-dropping pace he established in mid-June.
Going back to June 13, Freeman had a .346 average with 73 extra-base hits including six triples and 30 home runs in his past 109 games before Tuesday, with a 443 OBP, .688 slugging percentage, 1.131 OPS, 79 RBIs and 86 runs. The Braves are 55-54 in those games and Freeman had 23 go-ahead RBIs and 11 game-winning RBIs in that span.
In that same span, reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant had a slash line of .288/.389/.550 (.939 OPS) with 54 extra-base hits (24 homers), 64 RBIs and 80 runs, and American League MVP Mike Trout had batted .321/.453/.565 (1.018 OPS) with 47 extra-base hits (19 homers), 66 RBIs and 86 runs.