Freeman’s bat heats up, but frustrations mount over losses

Freddie Freeman is back to being Freddie Freeman, but the Braves keep losing at an alarming rate, particularly at home.

Their first baseman hit his fourth home run of the season Saturday and his third in his past nine games, but the Braves lost 4-2 against the Diamondbacks to fall to 1-14 at home and 7-22 overall, the worst start in franchise history through 29 games.

“We scored a run in the first and a run in the second, you feel like you’re on a pretty good pace,” said Freeman, who hit a first-pitch solo homer off his former Braves teammate Shelby Miller in the first inning. “I think we only had a couple more hits after (the second inning).”

Freeman is 17-for-40 (.425) in the past 11 games with four doubles, three homers and a slugging percentage well over .700, but the Braves are just 3-8 in that stretch. He’s raised his average from .167 on April 22 to .275 and his slugging percentage to .451. He and Nick Markakis (.385) are the only Braves slugging as high as .360 in more than five at-bats.

“He’s that type of hitter,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Freeman. “Now we need to get some people on base either in front of him or behind him, guys to push him across, because he’s doing his job. Nicky’s doing his job. A lot of the guys are maybe pressing a little bit. This game is not real fun to play when you’re not producing or winning games, especially not winning games. So we’ve got to fix that with a couple of W’s.”

Freeman started the season batting .177 (11-for-62) in his first 17 games with three extra-base hits, 20 strikeouts and a .311 OBP and .258 slugging percentage.

“I feel good. I felt good in Miami on the first road trip, eight games in,” Freeman said. “It was just a matter of time before things starting falling. I’m starting to get a little tired of talking about my 2-for-25 start. I’m trying to put that behind me and go out there and put together good ABs every night.

“I feel good, the ball’s coming off my bat nicely, and hopefully everything just continues (that way).”

Gonzalez said of Freeman’s slow start, “Again, it was so magnified because it was at the start (of the season). I’m sure — and I hope it doesn’t — that there’s going to be another time this year where he’s going to have a little stretch like that. But it’s not going to be as magnified because when you walk up seven days into the season and you’re hitting a bingo number, .087, it’s like, holy cow.

“But we knew he hadn’t forgotten how to hit. We knew it was just a matter of getting his time back and being successful.”

The Diamondbacks might hard time believing Freeman struggles. He entered Saturday batting .404 with 29 extra-base hits (nine homers), 32 RBIs and a .754 slugging percentage in 29 games against them, his highest average and slugging percentage against any team he played more than three games against.

Then he homered in the first inning, extending his hitting streak against the Diamondbacks to 15 games, during which he’s hit .397 with four doubles, a triple, seven homers and 20 RBIs. It’s the longest active streak against Arizona and tied for the fifth-longest active streak by any player against any team.