Braves soar past White Sox, Freeman departs with foot soreness

Dallas Keuchel pitches against the Chicago White Sox . (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

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Dallas Keuchel pitches against the Chicago White Sox . (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

For the second game in a row, the White Sox gained ground on a big Braves lead.

And for the second game in a row, they fell short, losing to Atlanta 11-5 Saturday at SunTrust Park, as the Braves answered a White Sox rally with a three-run seventh inning to put the game out of reach and clinch the series.

“It’s been good the last couple days,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of his team’s offense. “We’re kind of, I feel like we’re getting on track there a little bit, offensively. That was a tough game. It took a long time, obviously, and Dallas [Keuchel] had to work, too. But he never gives in when he’s pitching. It seems like this is another one of those teams where you can never have enough runs.”

Atlanta (83-54), a season-high 29 games over .500, has won 11 of its last 13 games and has scored 30 runs in its last three games after scoring 18 total in the previous six. The Braves are 5-1/2 games in front of the Nationals in the NL East.

“As much as they’ve been surging, we’ve kind of done a little surge of our own,” Snitker said of Washington. “Right at the right time, too, because they’re hitting on all cylinders, that’s for sure.”

Division standings

The nearly four-hour long affair was an odd one from the start as Keuchel, who has allowed one earned run in his last three outings, gave up a base hit to Leury Garcia on the first pitch, with the Braves falling behind in the top of the first inning after an RBI single by Yoan Moncada.

In six innings, Keuchel settled in and battled through the game’s slower pace, yielding two runs on nine hits, walking zero and striking out three.

“It was definitely a little different than what we have been used to, especially myself, I feel like I’m a bit more of a quick worker, but they made me work from the get-go,” Keuchel said. “First pitch was hit for a base hit. That’s always tough to kind of get in a groove. I was fortunate enough to make some pitches. But that’s not a really easy lineup to navigate.”

A single by second baseman Ozzie Albies, batting leadoff with outfielder Ronald Acuña out of the lineup, started things out as the Braves hopped on White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez from the get-go.

Atlanta scored six runs in the first inning, capped by a two-run single by Keuchel, before Lopez was pulled.

The game’s oddness continued when Freddie Freeman took a pitch to the left foot in the second inning but stayed in the game only to depart in the sixth. Per Snitker, Freeman was experiencing soreness in the foot and the manager took him out to be evaluated.

“Going to check him out when he comes in tomorrow,” Snitker said. “Just wanted to get him out and get him treated… the quicker I thought we get to him, the better chance we’ve got to get him in there tomorrow. But we’ll just have to wait and see how he is when he gets here.”

The White Sox cut the Braves’ lead to 7-5 after a messy seventh inning, with reliever Chris Martin giving up three runs (one earned) and Yolmer Sanchez scoring off a fielding error by Matt Joyce.

But Atlanta pulled away after a sacrifice fly by Acuña, who came in to pinch-hit with the bases loaded. A balk by White Sox reliever Kelvin Herrera, who then intentionally walked Albies, kept the bases loaded. After Dansby Swanson drew a walk and following a wild pitch by Herrera, Atlanta had regained its comfortable cushion, 10-5.

Josh Donaldson added a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth.

“I feel like if I had that answer, we’d never go into a little funk, but we’re just doing a good job,” Donaldson said of how to explain the recent burst of offense. “I feel like all year long, one thing I can say that we’ve done is have really good at-bats, from top to bottom. And we go out there, we grind guys down.”

The Braves will go for the sweep at 5:10 p.m. Sunday.