MIAMI – While the Braves’ seven-game winning streak was snapped and they lost for just the second time this season at Marlins Park, sizzling Freddie Freeman continued on one of the more impressive extended stretches of hitting we’ve seen in quite some time.
In a 6-4 loss Saturday night, Freeman had two more hits including his 32nd homer. He took care of streak matters early with a first-inning RBI single that pushed his hitting streak to 28 games and his on-base streak to 44 games.
Braves rookie Aaron Blair lost for the seventh time in eight decisions and saw his major league ERA climb back over 8.00 in 14 starts, allowing six hits, five runs and three walks in 3 1/3 innings. He gave up a Derek Dietrich two-run homer before recording an out and has allowed 12 homers and 19 walks in 37 innings with 23 strikeouts over eight starts.
“He’s still working at it,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said of the rookie Blair, who made significant adjustments to his delivery before his last start Monday, when he got his first win with six strong innings against the Mets. “Command wasn’t good. Just wasn’t coming out (of his hand) great.”
The seven-game winning streak was the longest in more than two years for the Braves, since winning nine in a row through July 5, 2014. It was only the 13th loss in their past 32 games, and the Braves are 11-7 against the Marlins and 6-2 at Marlins Park entering Sunday’s series finale, their final road game.
Atlanta trailed 5-2 before Freeman’s leadoff homer in the sixth inning on the first pitch from former Braves left-hander Hunter Cervenka. Freeman has 12 home runs in his past 30 road games, and his 32 homers are nine above his previous career high.
Freeman was also batting with two out in the seventh when Fernando Rodney threw a ball-four pitch that sailed over the catch and let in a run that cut the lead to 5-4.
“We’re in every game,” Freeman said. “We’ve been doing that for a couple months now. Doesn’t matter how many runs we get down, we’re still in this thing. We made it another ball game here again. We had our chances.”
The Braves had four consecutive comeback wins before Saturday, but the Marlins pushed it back to a two-run lead with a run in the seventh after Giancarlo Stanton’s leadoff single against John Gant. Pinch-runner Yefri Perez stole second, went to third on a ground out and scored on J.T. Realmuto’s single.
Freeman has hit a stunning .402 with 34 RBIs in past 34 road games and has a .384 average with 31 extra-base hits (14 home runs) and 44 RBIs during his 44-game on-base streak, second-longest in the majors this season and third-longest in Atlanta franchise history, after Gary Sheffield’s 52-gamer in 2002 and Dale Murphy’s 48 in 1987.
His hitting streak puts him one game shy of matching Boston’s Jackie Bradley for longest in the majors this season, and tied Marquis Grisson’s 28-game streak in 1996 as the fourth-longest in Atlanta franchise history, five behind Freeman pal Dan Uggla’s franchise-record 33-game hit streak in 2011.
Blair (1-7) was staked to a 1-0 lead in the first inning and failed to protect it for three batters. He walked the leadoff man, Dee Gordon, and one out later he gave up a two-run, line-drive homer to Dietrich on a full-count 89-mph fastball. Gordon reached base four times (two hits, two walks) and had three of the Marlins’ five stolen bases.
“Just didn’t have the command that I had five days ago,” Blair said. “Falling behind 2-0, 3-1, just putting myself in bad counts, bad situations. I don’t think it was mechanical, I think it was just aggression in the strike zone, falling behind.”
After Dietrich’s homer, the Braves answered with a tying run in the second on an Anthony Recker double and Gordon Beckham sacrifice fly. This time Blair made it through one scoreless inning before giving up another go-ahead run in the third after the Marlins loaded the bases on a leadoff single, a one-out hit batter (Dietrich) and a walk.
Stanton’s RBI groundout gave the Marlins a lead and Blair avoided further damage in the inning after walking Justin Bour intentionally and getting J.T. Realmuto to ground out on a terrific diving play by shortstop Dansby Swanson. The rookie went to his right, made the stop and gathered himself in time to make a good throw to second.
The Marlins loaded the bases again in the fourth on three consecutive singles to start the inning. After Marcell Ozuna’s sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 4-2, Blair was replaced by rookie Jed Bradley, who let in a run on a wild pitch before getting the last two outs of the inning.