'I love him': Olson powers win with 2 homers

June 29th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- As Freddie Freeman has struggled to close the door on his iconic Braves tenure, Matt Olson has had to deal with the pressure of replacing him in Atlanta. But as the season’s midway point approaches, he's looking like a worthy successor.

Olson tallied his second multihomer game in eight days and helped the Braves claim a 5-3 win over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. His decisive go-ahead homer in the eighth added to the significant value he has brought with his bat, glove and personality since being acquired from the A’s in March.

“I think he knows he’s a big part of the team on and off the field,” Braves starter Charlie Morton said. “He gives us a good clubhouse presence. He’s a really valuable guy all around.”

Olson was reminded of Freeman’s impact when the first baseman returned to Atlanta for the first time since signing with the Dodgers in March. He understood it. He was a 16-year-old Braves fan living in Lilburn, Ga., when Freeman began his 12-season stint with Atlanta in 2010.

But now that Freeman has moved on, it’s time for Atlanta-area teenagers to be every bit as excited about Olson, who has been appreciative of the comfort he has felt since joining his hometown team. The 28-year-old first baseman is quiet and shy. But as shown in this series opener against the Phillies, he can make a loud impact on the field.

“These guys have been awesome since the start and it’s just getting better,” Olson said. “I’m happy to be here.”

As the Braves have gone 20-5 in June, they have pulled within four games of the first-place Mets in the National League East and positioned themselves within one of the NL’s three Wild Card spots. Atlanta’s attempt to claim second straight World Series crown will improve if Olson builds on the two-homer games he has recorded both of the past two Tuesdays.

Travis d’Arnaud and Olson teamed up to hit back-to-back homers off Zack Wheeler in the first inning, and Morton pitched into the sixth after enduring a rocky first himself. Kyle Schwarber hit a game-tying homer off Dylan Lee in the seventh, but Olson delivered the decisive blow with his eighth-inning solo shot off Andrew Bellatti.

Each of the five hits Olson has recorded in 16 at-bats at Citizens Bank Park has been a home run.

“The ball does go pretty good here as compared to other places,” Olson said.

Actually, the ball has traveled pretty well for Olson throughout this entire season. The .253 batting average and .831 OPS he’s compiled through 75 games might not jump off the page. But he leads the Majors with 29 doubles, and his 41 extra-base hits are just four less than José Ramírez’s MLB-leading total.

Olson’s 12 homers put him on pace to hit 25 this year. Just one surge might be enough to hit at least 29 homers in a fourth consecutive 162-game season. He’s also on pace to record 62 doubles. Just six MLB players have hit as many as 60 doubles, but no player has reached this mark since 1936.

As for the 41 extra-base hits? Well, Olson is on pace to record 88 of those. The only Braves player to reach this total was Hank Aaron, who tallied 92 extra-base hits in 1959.

“I love him,” Morton said. “He’s a good dude and great ballplayer. It’s nice to see him have success and all of that. But really, I enjoy being his teammate this whole time.”