Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) is congratulated by Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla (left) after his game winning single in the 9th inning against the San Francisco Giants at Turner Field in Atlanta on Saturday, June 15, 2013. Atlanta Braves won 6-5 over the San Francisco Giants.
Freddie Freeman’s second walk-off hit of the season Saturday was further evidence of the dominant work he’s done in the clutch this season.
Entering Sunday, he was third in the National League with a .406 batting average in close-and-late situations, going 13-for-32, and matched Evan Gattis for the team lead in game-winning RBIs (six). Freeman was second in the NL only to Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran in batting average with runners in scoring position, hitting .446 (25-of-56).
Freeman has also been the Braves most consistent hitter across the board. Entering Sunday’s series finale with the Giants, he was leading the Braves in batting average (.312), RBIs (45), hits (67) and on-base percentage (.370).
Ask Freeman what’s been going right this season and he’ll simply point to good health.
“I was battling a lot of things last year and this year I finally have everything under control,” said Freeman, who spent two weeks in April on the disabled list with an oblique strain but said it’s completely healed. “It’s just a nice feeling that I can go out there and have confidence in my ability and not have to worry about something hurting if I do something wrong, like if I move a certain way is it going to shoot pain. It’s just a nice feeling. I haven’t really had that since I’ve been in the big leagues.”
Freeman had never been on the DL before April but said he dealt with nagging knee and wrist problems in his first season-plus in the majors. Then last year he dealt with both vision problems due to dry eyes and an injured index finger which he hurt getting hit by a Jose Reyes throw sliding into second base in Miami in June.
“I couldn’t even bend it until Christmas,” Freeman said.
He didn’t wear contacts for three months in the offseason to let his eyes heal. Now he puts drops in 10 minutes before putting his contacts in for a game. Freeman wears clear glasses at first base to protect his eyes from wind and debris. He doesn’t wear them at the plate because he doesn’t like seeing the nose piece in his peripheral vision. But he’s been able to manage his contacts with drops and changing to new pairs when needed.
He knew he was in good shape when he got through the Colorado series in April, his first action coming off the DL, without any problems. The dry air and wind at Coors Field is where his problems first cropped up last season.
“That took a weight off my shoulders and I could just go out there and not worry about it,” Freeman said.
The Braves haven’t been able to acquire the ace they might have wanted for the top of their rotation, but they secured the depth they needed Monday with the signing of free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd.
One week after the Braves were eliminated by the Dodgers in a four-game division series, Braves general manager Frank Wren met with the team’s beat writers and discussed the 2013 season and the team’s needs going into the offseason.