After five days of campaigning with T-shirts, posters and Tweets, a Freddie Freeman backed up his All-Star Final Vote selection with his bat.
Trending on Twitter and an afternoon announcement were just the appetizer for his three-hit game Thursday night against the Reds when Freeman justified what voters believed he’s been doing all season.
Freeman drove in four runs with hits in each of his first three at-bats to lead the Braves to a 6-5 win over the Reds.
“The fans voted for you; you want to go out there and deliver for them,” said Freeman, who was 3-for-4 with a double. “To come up in the first inning with guys on base and to come through was nice. It felt like a weight came off my shoulders.”
Tim Hudson gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits in seven innings to outlast the Reds’ Mat Latos, who was done after six runs in four innings including four in a total of six pitches to Freeman.
Hudson gave up two runs in the first inning, throwing 30 pitches, but settled in as the game went along and retired the final seven batters he faced.
After going a career-high 10 starts without a win, Hudson has won back-to-back starts for the first time since April 30 and May 5, when he passed the 200-win mark. The Braves had supplied only six runs of support over his previous five starts before giving him 17 runs in his past two starts.
“From about the third or fourth inning on I felt a lot more comfortable throwing some offspeed pitches for strikes,” said Hudson, now 6-7 with a 4.02 ERA. “Obviously when you get a lead it’s a lot easier to go out there and try to execute pitches and be more aggressive in the strike zone.”
The game got sloppy defensively for the Braves, who let the Reds narrow a 6-3 deficit to 6-5 on a pair of unearned runs. The Reds scored one off Hudson in the fifth on a Chris Johnson throwing error and one in the eighth off Jordan Walden aided by a Andrelton Simmons’ throwing error.
Closer Craig Kimbrel gave up a leadoff single in the ninth in his first game facing the Reds since May 7 when he gave up back-to-back home runs in a walk-off loss. But Kimbrel came back to strike out both Xavier Paul and Shin-Soo Choo, the batter who hit the walkoff May 7, on the way to his 25th save.
Jason Heyward had to leave Thursday’s game with a right hamstring strain which he injured running from first to third on a Justin Upton single in the second inning. Heyward was able to walk off the field under his own power and thinks he avoided serious injury. He will be re-evaluated on Friday.
Heyward’s replacement Reed Johnson, tripled down the third base line to start a three-run fourth inning that put the Braves up 6-3. Justin Upton drove Johnson in from third with a double over a drawn-in infield and Freeman followed with his third RBI hit.
Upton went 3-for-4 to raise his July average to .319 (14-for-44) with six doubles, one triple, one home run and eight RBIs. This is after he hit .217 in May and June combined with five doubles, one triple, three home runs and 18 RBIs.
Freeman came two hits shy of matching Chipper Jones’ feat of last July 3rd, when the veteran third baseman went 5-for-5 against the Cubs the day he was named to his final of eight All-Star teams.
Freeman’s first ever All-Star selection was about two hours old when he took the plate in the first inning to a hearty ovation from 40,186 Braves fans at Turner Field. More eager to dig in at the plate than figure out how to best acknowledge the cheers, Freeman did what he’s done for the better part of the season’s first three months - produced.
With Braves fans chanting “Fred-die, Fred-die,” he drove Latos’ first pitch to the right center gap to drive in two runs and tie the game 2-2.
“It was pretty cool,” Freeman said of the ovation. “(Catcher) Devin (Mesoraco) took his time too and gave it a little time. It’s a nice gesture the fans gave me.”
Freeman was just warming up. He singled in runs in each of his next two at-bats, to put the Braves up 3-2 in the second and 6-3 in the fourth. The four RBIs were a season-high and one shy of his career-high.
Freeman leads the Braves in RBIs (60) and batting average with runners in scoring position (.421, 32-for-76).