MILWAUKEE – After the Braves twice rallied from four-run deficits without any contributions from Freddie Freeman, the big first baseman came through when it counted most Friday night.
Freeman’s two-run homer to center field in the ninth inning lifted the Braves to a 10-8 series-opening win against the Brewers at Miller Park, the third consecutive win for a team that suddenly has its offense clicking.
“I’m just thankful to get another opportunity — I was pretty terrible for the first eight innings,” said Freeman, who popped out with bases loaded in the third inning, grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fifth and flied out with a runner on first in the seventh.
But in the ninth he came through in resounding fashion with a no-doubt-about-it homer off closer Neftali Feliz.
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“That’s the guy we want up there, and that’s the reason why,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Freeman’s eighth home run of the season was the 146th of his career, 53 of which have given the Braves a lead.
“Usually when you’re feeling bad at the plate, missing opportunities, you want another one just to redeem yourself,” Freeman said. “It obviously wouldn’t have happened without the group effort that this team put together. Down four runs twice is tough to do, to come back from. Every single guy did something tonight.”
After clawing back from deficits of 4-0 and 8-4, the Braves tied in the eighth on veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki’s second clutch hit in as many days, a pinch-hit RBI single. His three-run homer Thursday at New York was the decisive hit in a 7-5 win that gave the Braves a two-game sweep of the Mets.
“Coming off the bench, it’s always nice to come into a situation like that where you know the game’s kind of out there and you have a chance to affect it,” Suzuki said. “To be able to come through is awesome.”
After Braves reliever Jose Ramirez pitched a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts, Adonis Garcia doubled to start Atlanta’s ninth and set up Freeman’s line-drive homer to give the Braves their first lead and the only one they’d need.
The Braves have hit five home runs with runners on base this season, including Freeman’s Friday. The Brewers hit almost that many in the first six innings and lead the majors with 43 homers, a franchise record before the month of May.
But the Braves weren’t demoralized, they were unwavering.
“I think it’s a great team win,” Suzuki said. “Everybody contributed, everybody was into the game, never gave up, just kept putting together quality at-bats and grinding it out.”
Braves starter Bartolo Colon gave a pair of multi-run homers in five innings and Jason Motte surrendered a two-run homer to the second batter he faced in his Braves debut. But the Braves scraped together a season-high 10 runs to give them 25 in a three-game winning streak that followed a six-game skid.
After Orlando Arcia’s three-run homer capped a four-run second inning that gave the Brewers a 4-0 lead, Matt Kemp had a tying three-run double in the Braves’ four-run third inning.
Ryan Braun added a two-run homer off Colon in the fifth and pinch-hitter Domingo Santana hit a two-run homer off Motte in the sixth to push the lead back to 8-4. But again, the Braves went to work.
In the seventh after a one-out walk by Dansby Swanson and a pinch-hit single from Lane Adams – his first major league hit – the Braves got a two-run double from Ender Inciarte and an RBI single from Adonis Garcia to trim the lead to 8-7.
The Braves picked got the tying an inning later after Tyler Flowers and Jace Peterson set things up with one-out singles. Swanson struck out, but Suzuki came through with a single that scored pinch-runner Julio Teheran. Yes, Snitker had his staff ace pinch-run for Flowers, Teheran scored the tying run.
Snitker had told him an inning earlier to be stretched and ready to run if the situation arose, since the Braves had a shortened bench with second baseman Brandon Phillips recovering from a groin strain. Snitker didn’t want to use utility man Emilio Bonifacio in case he was needed later on offense or defense.
Colon gave up 10 hits, six runs and two walks in five innings for his third rough start in five outings, raising his ERA to 5.59. Braun and Arcia both homered on 0-1 pitches left up in the zone and over the middle of the plate.
Colon limited the Mets to two hits and one run in six innings of his Braves debut April 5 and pitched a seven-inning gem against the Padres April 16 when he gave up one hit and one run in seven innings. But in his other three starts the 43-year-old pitcher has allowed totals of 28 hits and 16 earned runs in 16 innings, including 21 hits and 10 runs in 12 innings in two starts on this trip against the Phillies and Brewers.
After watching the Brewers grab a 4-0 lead in a four-batter span of the second inning, the Braves responded with four in the next half-inning on two walks and three hits, the big blow delivered by Kemp on his bases-clearing double to the right-center gap.
Kemp’s two-out three-run double came after the Braves loaded the bases after a Peterson double, Swanson walk, Inciarte’s one-out RBI single and a walk by Garcia. Peterson has three consecutive two-hit games while filling in for injured second baseman Brandon Phillips.
Brewers starter Chase Anderson issued as many walks in the third inning as he had in any previous start this season, and four earned runs in the inning surpassed by one the season total allowed by the right-hander in his previous 26 innings. Anderson had a 1.13 ERA in four starts before Friday.