Freddie Freeman extended his hitting and on-base streaks emphatically with a fourth-inning home run Tuesday night against the Phillies at Turner Field. But the Braves they trailed 6-0 at the time, Julio Teheran having given up a first-inning grand slam to Ryan Howard on the way to the Atlanta ace’s worst start of the season.
Ah, but as Brian Snitker’s Braves have said so many times during the second half, they never think they’re out of it regardless of the size of the deficit. And as they’ve frequently proven, that confidence is well-founded.
Down six runs after two innings, the Braves rallied for a 7-6 win to open the final homestand of the season and the last, period, at Turner Field. They got within a run on Tyler Flowers’ three-run homer to straightaway center field in a four-run sixth inning, then finished the comeback with a pair of two-out RBI singles in the eighth inning from rookie Mallex Smith and pinch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio.
The Phillies pounded Teheran for 10 hits and six runs in four innings, and the Braves still won in a game twice delayed by rain – 31 minutes before the first pitch, 1 hour and 53 minutes after the fourth inning. They’ve won eight of their past nine games and 20 of 33.
“Aw, man, it was awesome,” said Smith, who made his first start since breaking a thumb June 19, and had two hits including a bases-loaded, opposite-field single to drive in the tying run. “Like I said, I’m just happy to be here and happy to find a way to contribute. I can’t say that any more genuinely than I just said it right now.”
With the Braves down 6-5, Freeman singled to start the eighth inning and Flowers doubled with one out to put two in scoring position. One intentional walk and a Dansby Swanson strikeout later, Smith tied the game and Bonifacio drove in the go-ahead run with a sharp grounder off shortstop Freddy Galvis.
Though he struck out in the eighth, rookie shortstop Swanson saved a run with a diving defensive play in the seventh.
“He’s doing it offensively and defensively,” Freeman said. “Big play right there, and big hits from Mallex and Emilio. I think Emilio has gotten two huge hits the last two times he’s pinch-hit. Lot of different guys coming up big lately.”
None have as often as Freeman, whose 33rd homer extended his hitting streak to 29 games – tied for longest in the majors this season – and stretched his on-base streak to 45 games. It came a day after the first baseman was named National League Player of the Week for the third time since mid-June.
Freeman’s two-out homer in the fourth was all the Braves got against Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff, who retired everyone else he faced in four innings. But they fared far better against Phillies relievers after the rain delay knocked both starters from the game. Meanwhile, five Braves relievers gave up no runs over six innings.
With five games left, Freeman has surpassed his previous single-season best homer total by 10 and is within four games of matching the franchise-record 33-game hitting streak that his pal Dan Uggla set in 2011. Freeman’s hit streak tied Boston’s Jackie Bradley’s 29-gamer for longest in the majors this season and tied Rowland Office for third-longest in Atlanta Braves history.
The 45-game on-base streak is second-longest in the majors this season, one behind Jayson Werth’s streak through Aug. 18. It’s the third-longest in Atlanta franchise history, seven off Gary Sheffield’s record 52-gamer in 2002.
Freeman has hit .389 with 17 doubles, 15 homers and 45 RBIs during his 45-game on-base streak. He had a .502 on-base percentage and .755 slugging percentage during the streak before Tuesday.
“He just keeps doing it,” interim manager Snitker said of Freeman. “You don’t feel good down six, but I thought we had a chance with all the at-bats we had left. They just kept coming at them. The homer by Tyler is obviously a big one, to get three there with one stroke, and Boni’s been coming up big with those pinch hits ever since he’s been back here.
“I’ll stay out there as long as it takes if we can win a game.”
Howard entered Tuesday with just a .192 batting average and 108 strikeouts in 313 at-bats this season. But he can still hit a ball over the fence, particularly a 91-mph fastball that catches too much of the plate like Teheran threw him in the first inning. Howard launched it on a towering arc to the right-field seats for his 24th homer this season and a 4-0 lead.
Howard moved into a tie with Albert Belle for 69th on the career home run list, and his 52 homers against the Braves are more than he’s hit against any other team. His 23 home runs in 87 games at Turner Field are nine more than he’s hit at any other stadium outside Philadelphia.
Before Tuesday, Teheran had a 1.39 ERA and one homer allowed in 71 1/3 innings over his past 10 starts against the Phillies. Cameron Rupp had two doubles against him including a two-out, two-run double in the second inning, the fourth hit and second double of the inning.
At that point Teheran had allowed eight hits and six runs and recorded five outs.
“He just didn’t have command, it wasn’t a good night for him,” Snitker said. “But after (giving up) the six, you’ve got to throw up some zeroes to give yourself a chance to come back, and the bullpen did that. They did an unbelievable job, all of them.”
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