Freddie Freeman’s streaks inched closer to historic proportions Wednesday, and the Braves pounded the Phillies to continue a second-half resurgence that’s significantly increased the chances of interim manager Brian Snitker having the “interim” label dropped from his title before much longer.
Mike Foltynewicz pitched five solid innings and Matt Kemp’s two-run homer capped a nine-run outburst in the first four innings for the Braves, who cruised to a 12-2 win at Turner Field, their ninth in 10 games.
“Guys just kept putting good at-bats up,” said Snitker, whose team has won 21 of 34 and played above .500 ball for more than three months. “Everybody did something to contribute. It was just another high-energy, get-after-it game.”
Daniel Castro added three singles and a career-high three RBIs in his first start since being recalled from Triple-A and top rookie Dansby Swanson added a triple, double and two RBIs for the Braves, who had 10 hits and nine runs against Phillies starter Adam Morgan before the left-hander recorded his 10th out.
“When the atmosphere’s like this, it’s definitely contagious,” Castro said through an interpreter. “When the team’s in a good mood, you’re in a good mood. It’s definitely good to be a part of it.”
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Freeman’s sixth-inning single extended his hitting streak to 30 games, the longest in the majors this season and third-longest in Atlanta Braves history, three behind Dan Uggla’s franchise-record 33-gamer in 2011. Freeman is the first major leaguer with a 30-game streak since Uggla.
“You take it for granted now with this guy,” Snitker said. “He’s a machine.”
He’d already extended his on-base streak to 46 games when hit by a pitch in the third inning. That streak tied Freeman with Washington’s Jayson Werth for longest in the majors this season and is the longest on-base streak by a Brave since Gary Sheffield’s Atlanta-record 52-game mark in 2002.
When asked his impressions from watching Freeman the past 2 1/2 weeks, Castro smiled and said, “Incredible.”
Braves fans also saw another milestone hit when third-base prospect Rio Ruiz led off the eighth inning with a triple to the right-center gap, his first major league hit in his third at-bat.
“It’s great to get that one out of the way and even better to get a win today,” Ruiz said.
The Braves scored two runs in the second inning, three in the third and four in the fourth, a binge capped by Kemp’s two-run homer with none out in the fourth inning for a 9-1 lead.
It was the 34th homer of the season for Kemp, who has hit .286 with 13 doubles, 11 HR and 37 RBIs in 52 games since he was traded to the Braves. Freeman and other Braves say Kemp’s had a major impact on their offense, which before Wednesday ranked third in the majors in scoring at 5.2 runs per game since Kemp arrived.
Kemp also doubled and scored in the third inning against Morgan and ranks among National League leaders with a slugging percentage over .600 against lefties.
Morgan had allowed nine earned runs in 28 innings over his previous five starts, posting a 2.89 ERA in that span. His other two starts against the Braves this season were in May, when Morgan allowed three runs and eight hits in 13 innings for a 2.08 ERA and .178 opponents’ average.
As he and other pitchers have learned recently, this is a far more proficient Braves offense than the team featured during an 18-46 start through June 14. The Braves are 47-46 since then, and 56-64 since Snitker replaced fired manager Fredi Gonzalez.
Pitching for the first time since taking a line drive off his left calf Sept. 12, Foltynewicz (9-5) worked five innings and was charged with two hits, one run and three walks with five strikeouts in his final start of the season. It was the fourth time in his past nine starts that he allowed only one run.
“That was a great way for him to finish his year,” Snitker said. “Strong, feeling good about things. Because I sure feel good about him right now…. He came a long way this year.”
He threw 80 pitches including two wild pitches to Cesar Hernandez with two out in the third inning, letting in the only run the Phillies scored against him after Aaron Altherr’s one-out single and a sacrifice.
“Everything felt good today,” said Foltynewicz, who went 6-1 in his last 11 starts with a 4.82 ERA in that span. In those six wins the Braves scored eight, six, seven, three, eight and nine runs while he was in the game, and he got 8.7 support runs per nine innings pitched over those 11 starts.
Freeman was hit by a pitch to start the third inning and Kemp followed with a double that put two runners in scoring position. After Tyler Flowers hit a sacrifice fly, Swanson pulled an RBI double down the left-field line. Swanson stole third before Castro’s second run-scoring single in as many innings gave the Braves a 5-1 lead.
Swanson drove in the game’s first run with a triple in the second inning after Flowers’ leadoff single. One out later, Castro’s flare to shallow center scored Swanson for a 2-0 lead.