Freeman’s not seeing many strikes, but feasting when he does

Freddie Freeman is pulling off a hitter’s perfecta of sorts in the first week of the season: He’s taking walks repeatedly when pitchers refuse to throw strikes, and when they have little choice but to pitch to him he’s making them pay.

The Braves slugger went 2-for-3 with a homer, four RBIs and two walks in five plate appearances in Tuesday night’s 13-6 win against the Nationals, Freeman moving into a tie for the major league RBI lead with nine and maintaining his lead in walks with 10.

“I’m ready to hit every single pitch,” said Freeman, whose 10 walks are the most by any player through five games since 1997, when Gary Sheffleid had 10 for the Marlins through five games. “I’m not doing anything different. I’ve been seeing the ball pretty good the first five games, and believe me I want to swing. I do. They’ve been kind of nibbling, but the guys behind me have been knocking me in.

“So I’m going to keep taking my walks and putting pressure on them on the bases, and we’ll keep scoring runs.”

After Tuesday, when he hit a three-run homer in the second inning and a two-out RBI single in fifth, this was Freeman’s astounding statistical line with runners in scoring position for the season: 6-for-7 with two homers, nine RBIs and two intentional walks.

“It’s amazing what he does,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s an elite hitter. He’s shown it the last few years but the guy’s very special. He takes advantage of (those situations) and he’s so aggressive. It’s fun to watch him.”

As Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer stood at the batting cage Tuesday afternoon and watched Freeman taking batting practice, he said the ideal approach for such a dangerous hitter was simple and Freeman was following it perfectly.

“I just told him, stay ready, stay aggressive, take your walks,” Seitzer said. “I mean, the last thing I want him to do is start expanding (the strike zone). And he knows that. So he’s going to just stay aggressive, stay ready. When they want to pitch around him – when he went 2-0 (Monday) with a runner in scoring position, base open, I thought for sure they were going to just put him on. But they threw him a heater (fastball), he got a base hit and drove in the run. That’s a real good indicator.

“He’s taking his walks and my whole focus is to keep him right there, because if he starts expanding it’s going to get ugly quick.”