It didn’t take long for Braves slugger Freddie Freeman to identify his favorite part of the team’s new ballpark. Freeman, who bats lefty, was eager to play in a home park that’s just 375 feet to right-center field.
That’s where Freeman hit the two-run homer that put the Braves ahead against the Padres in the third inning on Monday. The short right-field porch came back to bite the Braves when Austin Hedges homered in the eighth but Freeman countered with his second homer of the game in the bottom of the inning.
That solo shot against reliever Ryan Buchter tied the game and the Braves won it 5-4 on Dansby Swanson’s two-out, walk-off single in the ninth inning. The Braves (6-6) swept the four-game series with the Padres and won their fifth straight overall.
Before starting the season 1-1, the Braves last had a .500 record when they were 42-42 on July 7, 2015.
“It’s early in the year so it’s hard to say it’s … a huge game but this was a big game to get the Braves back to .500 for the first time in a long, long time,” Freeman said.
Freeman gave the Braves an opportunity to win and Swanson, plus a little luck, allowed them to seize it.
Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki hit a single against Brandon Maurer with one out in the ninth. After pinch hitter Luke Recker flied out to center, Emilio Bonifacio hit a looping ball to shallow left field that dropped in for a double. Pinch runner Chase d’Arnaud went to third.
Padres manager Andy Green opted to intentionally walk Inciarte to get to Swanson, who was 0-for-4 and entered the game hitting .146. Swanson turned on Maurer’s inside fastball and sent it to left field, where it fell in front of Allen Cordoba’s outstretched glove on a diving attempt.
“I didn’t figure they would walk Ender but I felt good right there in that situation,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I have a good feeling every time (Swanson) comes up there, really. It was clutch.”
Things looked bad for the Braves after Hedges hit a two-out, two-run homer against reliever Arodys Vizcaino that put the Padres ahead 4-3 in the eighth inning. The high fly ball sailed about 330 feet and just cleared the 16-foot wall in right field.
The Padres (5-9) finally broke through against the home team’s bullpen. Braves relievers had pitched 16 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run before Hedges homered.
Freeman’s second home run went out to left-center, which was his sweet spot at Turner Field.
“It’s about coming through in the clutch right there,” Freeman said. “I would have taken it right down the right-field line in that situation. I feel good. I’ve felt good pretty much since spring training so hopefully I can keep this going.”
Freeman also doubled twice in the game. The first one fell in the gap in right-center in the first inning and he smashed a line drive off the exposed brick on the upper portion of the right-field wall in the sixth.
For the season Freeman is 18-for-45 (.400) with five home runs, four doubles and seven walks.
“He’s an elite hitter,” Snitker said.
The Padres got within 3-2 on Allen Cordova’s pinch-hit homer to lead off the seventh against Braves starter Jaime Garcia. Jose Ramirez relieved Garcia and struck out both batters he faced to preserve the 3-2 lead.
Vizcaino struck out No. 3 hitter Yangervis Solarte and cleanup man Hunter Renfroe. Ryan Schimpf drew the first walk of the season against Vizcaino and Hedges hit the first home run. Luis Sardinas reached base on a throwing error by Vizcaino and Allen Cordova walked before right-hander Luke Jackson replaced Vizcaino and retired pinch hitter Hector Sanchez.
After Freeman’s tying home run, Braves closer Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless ninth inning with help from a slick double play turned by middle infielders Swanson and Brandon Phillips. And then Swanson came through with the game-winning hit.
“It was great to see guys fight back and never miss a beat after we lost the lead,” Snitker said. “‘Free’ has a huge night and happy for Dansby. He’s been hitting some balls right on the button and just not getting anything for it but he just keeps grinding away. So that was nice for him to feel that.”
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