Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman spoke before Monday’s series opener against the Phillies. Freeman’s Braves are in the midst of a 14-game stretch against the division opponents the Phillies and Nationals, and they’re fresh off an 8-1 homestand.
Here is some of what Freeman said:
On avoiding a September swoon and the progression of returning players
“We still have one guy waiting in the wings who everybody loves on this team in Nick Markakis, who hopefully we can get him some simulated at-bats here and get him back in the lineup, because that makes our lineup that much deeper. You push everyone down a spot in the order. Having B-Mac (Brian McCann) hit fifth or sixth is really, really good. But having B-Mac hit seventh is great. So we’re still winning with pieces who are key to our team and key to our success that haven’t been in our lineup for a while.
“And not having Dansby (Swanson), hopefully we can get him going in the next couple weeks, and maybe get Austin Riley going again. When Austin was at his best, we were the best team in baseball hands-down. So if we can get him going and his bat, get hot at the right time – that’s all it is, the playoffs, it’s hot at the right time. So if we can get going and get hot, we can be a force.”
On the team’s increased depth
“When we lost Dansby and Nick, all we were trying to do is tread water, keep it afloat while we deal with injuries. Next thing we know, we’re even better. We just went 17-3 over a 20-game stretch. But that’s just the fact that (general manager) Alex (Anthopoulos) and his team did a heck of a job getting (Adeiny Hechavarria), Billy Hamilton can win some games with his legs, (Francisco Cervelli) won us that game in New York. We’ve just had some big games from guys you weren’t expecting. But when you can get Nick back and those guys, it’s going to make us that much better.”
On maintaining performance throughout the season and enduring ups and downs as a team
“We’ve gone through our ups and downs. We went through our downs on offense, but that’s when our ups came from starting pitching. They’ve been absolutely fantastic for about three weeks now. That’s the big piece. We’re just trying to find our groove hitting. We’ll have a really good game then get four hits the next. The next day we’ll get six, then we’ll get 12. We’ve been inconsistent as an offense. We’re just trying to find the right guys to make it work while Nick gets healthy again, Dansby gets going again, Austin gets going again. Ronald hasn’t been hitting that great lately. I haven’t been doing that great either. … If you look at it individually, I think you can tell it’s September. It’s been a long year. We’ve been grinding to build this lead.
“But as a whole, as a unit, that’s what makes good teams good. They’ve been able to pick us up, when you have starting pitchers going six or seven innings. That’s how you win games. And I don’t think that’s going to slow down from them. They’ve been absolutely phenomenal these last three weeks. And when you have a guy like Dallas (Keuchel) who puts that in (the other starters) to want to go six or seven innings every time out, it just makes us even better.”
On Ozzie Albies’ success hitting second in the lineup
“That’s been a huge piece too. When you look at it, coming into this year, you didn’t know what Ozzie you were going to get. First half or second half (of 2018). What he’s done left-handed this year has put every question to bed. Dynamic, five tools. I don’t know if he’s a 2-hole hitter – he likes to swing and doesn’t walk that much – but Ronald isn’t a 1-hole hitter either. We’ve been making it work. He’s been having a great season this year. He’s hitting .290. He’s been phenomenal. In my opinion he’s a gold glover. He should win it this year. It’s been fun to watch our young guys grow this year.”
On the Braves currently being the most confident they’ve been this season
“I think so. The way we’re playing, and knowing we’re getting some guys back, the bullpen has been a force since they started going two or three weeks ago. It’s really hard when you’re coming off an 8-1 homestand to not have that much confidence. We know we have three weeks left. We know we have a big lead but we still have to take care of business and close this thing out as fast as we can.”
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