The Braves are going to miss Freddie Freeman for the next two or three months, but at least they got a big dude with serious power to pick up some of the slack while Freeman is out.
Matt "Big City" Adams gave the Braves and their fans a glimpse of what he can do with a mammoth two-run homer Monday night in his second game with the Braves, as he and Brandon Phillips powered Atlanta to a 5-2 win against the Pirates on a rainy night at SunTrust Park when Atlanta leadoff man Ender Inciarte had a career-high five hits.
"Felt good to get the first couple (of hits) out of the way, now I can just settle in and play ball," said Adams, who was acquired from the Cardinals in a Saturday trade, two days after it was confirmed Freeman has a fractured wrist and is likely to be out about 10 weeks. "I just got some pitches out over the plate and was able to get the barrel to them."
Phillips became just the 48th major leaguer to have at least 200 career homers and 200 stolen bases when he put the Braves ahead with a solo homer in the third inning, and the 242-pound Adams turned a two-run lead into a 5-1 margin in the fifth, both homers coming against Pirates ace Gerrit Cole.
“Oh, man, (Adams) can swing the bat,” said Phillips, who saw Adams frequently when Phillips was with the Reds. “He’s got a lot of power. He can play first base. Atlanta’s going to see what he can really do, and I’m happy they went out and got him. He’s going to be great.
“You can’t replace a Freddie Freeman; that’s one thing you can’t do. But that guy is going to come in and do the job and I’m happy to call him my teammate.”
Inciarte went 5-for-5 with five singles and Mike Foltynewicz pitched five strong innings for the Braves, who won eight of their past 11 games including three of five since Freeman fractured his left wrist.
“I think what the guys have done after Freddie went down, I couldn’t be more proud of the guys,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “And I didn’t expect anything less than what I’m seeing.”
Foltynewicz (3-4) gave up eight hits and two walks in five innings but limited the Pirates to two runs (one earned), while Cole gave up five runs and a season-high 10 hits in a season-low 4 2/3 innings, including two-out home runs by Phillips in the third inning and Adams in the fifth.
After Foltynewicz gave up a run on three consecutive singles to star the sixth inning, Braves reliever Jason Motte struck out the next two batters and retired three in a row to quash the rally hopes and continue the Atlanta bullpen’s recent dominant stretch. Braves relievers have pitched 20 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings and have a 1.70 ERA in the past 16 games.
“He’s been in big situations his whole major league career, and situations like that don’t faze him,” Snitker said of Motte, a former Cardinals closer. “He gets down in the count and keeps pitching. We were talking the other day and I said, all this guy does is go after hitters and get them out.”
Two days after beating the Nationals and reigning Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, the Braves won for the first time in Cole’s six career starts against them. Inciarte had three hits against Cole en route to a five-hit night that raised his average 21 points to .279.
Cole had a 1.96 ERA in his past seven starts before Friday, allowing two earned runs or fewer in each. He’d given up two homers in his past five starts.
Phillips put the Braves ahead 2-1 with a long bases-empty homer in the second inning, making him just the sixth second baseman to reach the 200-homer and 200-stolen base standards, including four Hall of Famers. The 35-year-old Stone Mountain native has three homers and eight steals in 38 games in his first season with the Braves.
But the biggest swing of the night came from newcomer Adams. Inciarte and Phillips hit back-to-back singles to start the fifth inning before Nick Markakis hit a sharp grounder to third base that was ruled an error, bringing in a run for a 3-1 lead. After Matt Kemp grounded into a double play, Adams turned a Cole hanger into a two-run banger.
It was a Freeman-esque drive off Cole, who hung a 1-and-2 breaking ball that Adams squared up, pulling it to the standing area in front of Chop House above the right-field seats.
“It’s why we wanted to get that guy,” Snitker said. “It’s a great acquisition by our front office. And you know what? I’ve been around him for two days and what a wonderful guy and pleasant to be around.”
Adams’ homer was his second of the season, both at SunTrust Park. He homered off Julio Teheran on May 6 in the last game that Adams started for the Cardinals, who used him as a pinch-hitter and backup outfielder since Matt Carpenter was moved to first base this season.
Adams is a large man, hence his nickname “Big City,” and with one swing the left-handed hitter showed power that enabled him to hit 15 or more home runs for the Cardinals in each of the three seasons in which he got at least 300 plate appearances, including 16 homers in 297 at-bats in 2016.
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a throwing error by Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, who didn’t have to wait long to get some redemption.
Swanson led off the bottom of the third with a double off the base of the center-field wall, then scored the tying run on Inciarte’s one-out single. Inciarte was out trying to stretch the single to a double and Phillips followed with his third homer of the season.
Pirates third baseman David Freese and manager Clint Hurdle were thrown out of the game by home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi in the fourth inning, Freese for arguing after a called third strike went against him and Hurdle for coming out to defend his player and getting into an animated discussion with Cuzzi.
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