Freeman a winner in emotional return to Atlanta

June 27th, 2022

ATLANTA -- The Dodgers were down to their final strike. They were down two runs, and the offense wasn’t showing any signs of life. Former Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen had punched out five in a row dating back to Saturday. The win probability was down to 1.1 percent, according to Baseball Savant.

It all came down to , who delivered with a two-out single on a full count. Chris Taylor followed with a single of his own and then stole second, representing the tying run. That set the stage for , who was acquired last week out of necessity once Mookie Betts was placed on the injured list.

Thompson delivered with the game-tying two-run single off Jansen, sending the game into extra innings. In the 11th, the Dodgers tacked on two more runs and completed the comeback with a dramatic 5-3 win over the Braves on Sunday at Truist Park. It was the Dodgers’ first win in extra innings this season.

“That was quite the game, quite the series. That was a heavyweight battle,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on the weekend series against the Braves. “The way they deployed pitching, [the way] we deployed pitching, and just every play felt like a postseason game, it really did.”

This round was won by the Dodgers, largely because of the effort the bullpen gave them on Sunday. The ninth-inning rally would’ve never been possible without solid performances out of Phil Bickford and Reyes Moronta, who tossed zeros in the eighth and ninth innings.

In the 11th, with seemingly no relief options left, Roberts said David Price, Evan Phillips and -- who were all scheduled to be down on Sunday -- lobbied to pitch. The Dodgers went to Graterol, who took the loss on Saturday and was pitching for a third consecutive game. Graterol responded by putting 102 mph sinkers past the Braves’ hitters en route to his first career regular-season save.

“The guys in the 'pen picked us up big time,” Roberts said. “Great team win.”

The Dodgers and Braves have won the past two World Series titles, beating each other in the National League Championship Series on their way there. It’s a rivalry that has been building for years, but it has an added dimension this season.

is now a Dodger after spending 15 years in the Braves’ organization. Jansen, who had hoped to remain with the Dodgers in free agency but ultimately signed with the Braves, is the all-time saves leader in Los Angeles. Craig Kimbrel, the Dodgers’ new closer, is the Braves’ all-time saves leader.

“It’s just two really good teams, well-balanced,” Freeman said. “It’s fun. But when you compete, we ended up playing 4 1/2-hour ballgames because of it. I know the fans love watching games like that, too, because this is good baseball all around.”

Though it’s only June 26, this was a big win for the Dodgers moving forward. Taylor said losing on Sunday would’ve been a tough pill to swallow. Instead, they’ll be flying to Colorado on a much better note.

“It was a fun series,” Taylor said. “Obviously, Freddie coming in here, the crowd welcoming him with open arms, seeing that, that was good to see. He’s done so much for this organization. … It was just a good series win for us.”

Outside of the tough opponent, it was a weekend Freeman and the Dodgers needed to get through. It was always going to be an emotional weekend for Freeman. It’s one he has thought about ever since the Braves moved on from him and acquired Matt Olson from the A’s.

Freeman knew there would be a lot of tears shed during his return to Truist Park, and that proved to be true until the last inning of Sunday’s game. Freeman said he wasn’t looking for closure because his time in Atlanta was too precious to him.

But the reality is that Freeman is a Dodger now. His time in Atlanta has come to an end. And by the looks of it, the Dodgers’ quest for another World Series title could come with a trip to Cobb County in late October.

“I’m emotionally drained,” Freeman said as he thanked the Truist Park crowd for its welcome this weekend. “I was really looking forward to this weekend. I’m also kind of glad it’s over so I can just focus on baseball.”