The Braves bullpen rebounded from an awful two-week stretch through April 27 with a confidence-restoring two-week run since then, and Sam Freeman was a big part of that resurgence.
The lefty-hander, who still hasn’t allowed a hit by a lefty batter this season (0-for-21), pitched in 14 of the Braves’ first 21 games, through April 23. He looked worn out from the heavy workload by the end of that stretch, giving up two hits, five earned runs and three walks while recording just one out over two appearances April 21 vs. the Mets and April 23 at Cincinnati.
Manager Brian Snitker acknowledged that Freeman needed a break and stayed away from using him for two days.
Here’s what Freeman had done since then, before Saturday night’s game against the Marlins: Six appearances, no runs, two hits, two walks (one intentional) and nine strikeouts in 6-2/3 innings with a .095 opponents’ batting average and puny .317 opponents’ OPS.
The entire Braves bullpen had six losses and a 7.66 ERA in a 12-game stretch that began with the freezing-rain debacle of a game April 14 at Wrigley Field. Since April 28, Braves relievers had a 2.18 ERA before Saturday and converted all five save opportunities in that period.
Freeman’s 20 appearances in 37 team games was only one behind the major league leader before Saturday. But since getting that brief respite the lefty hasn’t been used on consecutive days.
Contrast that with his early grind, when Freeman pitched on consecutive days four times in the first four weeks of the season, including one stretch of three consecutive days.
For the season, he has a .137 opponents’ average and .454 opponents’ OPS, allowing seven hits and 12 walks with 17 strikeouts in 16-1/3 innings, for a 1.16 WHIP. And the 26 lefty batters he’s faced were hitless with five walks, nine strikeouts and a .192 OPS.
Freeman has also been effective most nights against right-handed batters, who were 7-for-30 (.233) with one extra-base hit (double) and a .635 OPS against Freeman before Saturday.
Five of the six earned runs he allowed all season came in those two games April 21-23 against the Mets and Reds. In his other 18 appearances before Saturday, Freeman allowed just five hits and one earned run in 16 innings (0.56 ERA).