Freeman said, “He started me off with two change-ups in a row. I was just trying to battle in that situation, trying to just put the ball in play, trying not to strike out. Worked my way back to 3-2, and he left one, a high fastball, I don’t even know if that was a strike or not. But yeah, he just left it over and I was able to hit it in the hole.”
Freeman raised his average with runners in scoring position to .404 (21-for-52), fifth-best in the National League before Sunday, just behind Andrew McCutchen (.405). The NL leader? That’d be Maybin, who was at a sizzling .468 (22-for-47) after getting two more huge hits with runners in scoring position Saturday, including a game-winning two-run single in the 11th inning.
The combination of Jace Peterson, Cameron Maybin and Freeman in the first three spots in the order has worked quite well for the Braves for a significant stretch now, and the initial concerns about Freeman not getting pitches to hit have subsided, despite the fact that current cleanup hitter Nick Markakis hasn’t hit a home run all season.
Freeman also isn’t wasting many of the hittable pitches he gets, as evident by his first-pitch homer off Mets ace Jacob deGrom on Saturday, the first homer that deGrom allowed in 16 home starts dating to early last season.
The 437-foot shot, as measured by ESPN Home Run Tracker, was tied for the second-longest of the season for Freeman, and Mets broadcasters said it was as long as any ball they’d ever seen hit to right-center field at Citi Field. Freeman has the longest homers this season at Arizona’s Chase Field (451 feet) and San Francisco’s AT&T Park (433).
Freeman hit .362 with seven homers, a .442 OBP and 16 RBIs in his past 15 games before Sunday, raising his season total to 12 homers in the Braves’ first 62 games. He’s on pace for his second 100-RBI season and already more than halfway to his career-best homer total of 23 set in 2012 and matched in 2013.
“I played with Joey Votto, obviously a left-handed first baseman, power and average hitter,” said Gomes, a former Reds teammate of Votto’s. “I hit behind him when he won the MVP and almost Triple Crown’ed the league in 2010. What I can see similar in those two is, it’s so hard to hit in this game, and it’s really hard to situational hit. Like that situation (Saturday), two outs, you’re trying to stay out of the air, shoot a hole – I mean, it’s so hard to control your (bat) barrel and situational hit, when that guy (opposing pitcher) is throwing pitches for you not to do it.
“Between Freddie and Joey, the ability to situational hit. You understand, he took that hit, but at the same time he hit a ball to the moon on the first pitch (he saw in) the game. To be able to have both of those clubs – and there’s obviously so many between those two – that’s extremely impressive.”