Freeman keeps dazzling, leads Braves to comeback win over D-backs

Braves’ Freddie Freeman follows through on his game-winning hit in the eighth inning. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
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Braves’ Freddie Freeman follows through on his game-winning hit in the eighth inning. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

A homer by a Freeman gave the Braves a lead in the sixth inning, a homer off a Freeman tied it for Arizona in the seventh, and a wild pitch put the Diamondbacks ahead an inning later.

Ah, but Freddie Freeman and the Braves weren’t done, and momentum they took to the All-Star break continued Friday night with a 4-3 win against the Diamondbacks at SunTrust Park that was decided by Freeman’s beat-the-shift single through the left side with two runners on in the eighth inning.

“We got down a couple of times and kept coming back,” Freeman said after the Braves scored twice in the eighth inning for their majors-leading 15th win in their final at-bat. “When you don’t get it done the first time in the first inning you just want an opportunity again. I was thankful to get it again and come through.”

Freeman struck out looking with a runner at third base for the second out of the first inning, but Matt Adams followed with single for a 1-0 lead. The remaining three Braves runs scored on Freeman hits including his solo home run in the sixth inning, his 17th and third since he returned last week after seven weeks on the disabled list for a fractured wrist.

His single in the eighth inning drove in Ender Inciarte with the tying run before Brandon Phillips scored the go-ahead run on the play when left fielder Gregor Blanco threw to the wrong (second) base after Phillips had slipped at third base. Freeman has 10 RBIs in his past five games, three homers in his past four games and a .400 average (12-for-30) in seven games since returning from the DL despite playing parts of only two minor league rehab games.

Braves manager Brian Snitker compared Freeman in that regard to former Braves great Chipper Jones.

“I’d watch Chipper go on the DL and he’d come off the DL (without a rehab assignment) and come out of the clubhouse and hit a three-run homer, and go back in,” Snitker said. “I mean, he was a special guy too, obviously. Some are chosen.”

"It's like a Nintendo game (for Freeman)," said Braves knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who allowed one run in six innings for his fifth consecutive outstanding start. "It really is. Every night I watch him, I'm so thankful I don't play for the Mets anymore, because he crushed me. That's about what I expect out of him now, which is kind of scary. When he gets up there, you start to expect great things… I can't say enough about (the job Freeman has done)."

Freeman dismissed the comparison to his friend Jones.

“No, Chipper’s a class of his own,” Freeman said. “He’s something special. I’m just trying to do me, just trying to get pitches to hit and get hits. I was just thankful that they pitched to me in that situation (in the eighth inning) and I was able to come through. I’m a long, long from even coming in the same category as (Jones), he’s a class of his own. But I’m just trying to get the big hits.”

The Braves’ four hits and two runs in the eighth off Archie Bradley, who came in with a 1.10 ERA and .190 opponents’ average in 33 appearances. With Arizona up 3-2, he pitched to Freeman with two runners in scoring position and he hit a ball through the opening where the shortstop would normally be, into shallow left field on the fly.

“If there’s guys in scoring position and there’s a hole over there, I’m going for it every time,” Freeman said. “So if they want to keep doing that, it’s fine with me. I always told you guys, the shift gives you more hits than it takes away. Obviously it worked tonight.”

Inciarte reached on an infield hit to start the inning and Phillips doubled to put two in scoring position for Freeman.

Inciarte also made a leaping catch at the center-field wall on A.J. Pollock’s long fly off closer Jim Johnson to start the ninth inning.

“He’s the reigning Gold Glove (center fielder) and that’s why,” Snitker said. “He makes plays all the time and when they count. Just comes up big all the time, with hits too. That guy in the eighth inning is really good and he and Brandon both had really good at-bats to set that whole thing up.”

Freeman homered in the sixth inning off starter Taijuan Walker to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. His 17 home runs have come in just 165 at-bats, a ratio of one every 9.71 at-bats that would lead the majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Yankees phenom Aaron Judge had a majors-leading ratio of one homer ever 10.03 before Friday and the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger (10.28) was the only other major leaguer with a ratio of better than one homer every 11.8 at-bats.

The Diamondbacks scored one run in each of the sixth through eighth innings to take a 3-2 lead, with the tying run scoring on Paul Goldschmidt’s seventh-inning homer off left-hander Sam Freeman and the go-ahead run scoring on a Jose Ramirez two-out wild pitch in the eighth.

Dickey gave up eight hits and worked out of trouble in each of the first four innings, eventually giving up one run in the sixth but limiting the damage despite four consecutive one-out singles.

He got no decision and is 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA and .214 opponents’ average in his past five starts, allowing only four runs and 25 hits (no home runs) in 33 innings over that span. This followed a six-start stretch in which he had a 6.75 ERA through June 13, allowing four or more earned runs four times and 42 hits including six homers in 34 2/3 innings.

Arizona starter Walker’s pitch count was already at 85 when he came to bat with bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning of tied game, and manager Torey Lovullo left him in to hit. He grounded into an inning-ending double play, the one outcome that Dickey was looking for.