MIAMI -- Freddie Freeman was never truly in a concerning funk. But now that he's once again showing why he has the potential to be a MVP candidate for many years to come, there's further reason to believe the deep and dynamic Braves lineup will remain one of the Majors'
MIAMI -- Freddie Freeman was never truly in a concerning funk. But now that he's once again showing why he has the potential to be a MVP candidate for many years to come, there's further reason to believe the deep and dynamic Braves lineup will remain one of the Majors' most potent over the remainder of the season.
Freeman extended his recent torrid stretch with his latest two-homer game as the Braves claimed a 10-5 win over the Marlins on Saturday night at Marlins Park. The veteran first baseman also drew the first of the four walks the Marlins issued during a decisive two-run eighth inning that included 52 pitches and just two balls in play.
"It's a good win to come back," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It looked like we had it in hand, and then lost the lead. That's just a good team win."
The Braves won for the ninth time in their past 10 road games thanks to the patience and diligence shown by Ender Inciarte, who drew a 13-pitch walk to load the bases, and Tyler Flowers, who added to Drew Steckenrider's frustration by following with an eight-pitch, bases-loaded free pass that gave the Braves an eighth-inning lead they would not squander.
But as the Braves rolled toward their seventh double-digit run total, they were fueled by Freeman, who drilled a two-out, solo homer in the first inning and then went the other way with a two-run shot off Marlins left-hander Jarlin Garcia in the fifth. The veteran first baseman now has 13 career multi-homer games. But this marked the first time he tallied two against a southpaw.
"In our lineup, through and through, there is damage to be had everywhere," Braves starting pitcher Mike Soroka said. "I think just seeing him in a groove right now is really encouraging as well. It's easy to take the mound when they put up leads like that."
Soroka was in line to notch his second win through three career starts before third baseman Jose Bautista committed a two-out error that allowed the Marlins to claim a brief lead with a four-run fifth. That advantage quickly vanished when Bautista opened the sixth inning with his first homer of the season -- a game-tying shot off Garcia.
Time will tell whether Bautista will do enough offensively and defensively to remain an everyday player. But regardless, with Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Inciarte consistently doing damage with both power and speed, the Braves have plenty of firepower beyond Freeman, who has hit .371 with six homers and a 1.137 OPS over his past 17 games.
Freeman notched a career-best five-hit game against the Rays on Wednesday, a few hours after bench coach Walt Weiss told Snitker, "[Freeman] is fixin' to get hot."
"He hit that on the head," Snitker said. "It was bound to happen with him."
The first-place Braves have led the National League in most major statistical offensive categories this season. Freeman has provided production throughout. But now that he's back in one of the special grooves that he has extended over months in the past, there's reason to wonder if things might get even better for Snitker's club.
"[Freeman] is an elite hitter," Snitker said. "He has been for a while. I can't say any more about him. He's just as good as it gets."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The decisive eighth: With two on, one out and the game tied, Inciarte missed the first two pitches he saw from Steckenrider and then fouled the third off. The Gold Glove Award-winning center fielder looked at the next three pitches before fouling six straight pitches. The Marlins' right-hander threw 12 consecutive fastballs before concluding the 13-pitch battle with a slider that was low and inside.
Inciarte's walk set the stage for Flowers, who held off a fastball that just missed the outside corner. Flowers' go-ahead bases-loaded walk was followed by the walk Johan Camargo drew off Junichi Tazawa.
"Ender's at-bat was the game changer for us right there," Freeman said. "He was pumping heaters and he kept fouling them off. That was the first offspeed [pitch] he threw that inning, and Ender was able to lay off. Tyler had a good big league at-bat for us there to get us the lead."
Redemption blast: With the bases loaded and the Braves leading 4-1 in the fifth, Brian Anderson produced a routine two-out chopper that Bautista bobbled on the infield grass. The error cut the Marlins' deficit to two runs and extended the inning for Derek Dietrich, who followed with a go-ahead, bases-clearing double off Soroka. The rookie allowed five runs -- one earned -- over 4 2/3 innings.
Bautista then opened the sixth with a game-tying home run. The solo shot was his first homer and the second extra-base hit he has tallied while going 4-for-24 since joining Atlanta and becoming the team's primary third baseman on May 4.
"It was somewhat a redemption to the error," Bautista said. "It's good to get the team back to an even game at that point. So, yeah, that one felt pretty good." More >
The Braves swung at 25 of 52 eighth-inning pitches, as they recorded one hit, drew four walks and put two balls in play during their go-ahead frame. Inciarte accounted for nine of those swings during his 13-pitch walk.
"Those were unbelievable at-bats," Snitker said. "I told Ender his at-bat might have been the best of the whole year. That was just a huge at-bat. Tyler, too. That's a professional at-bat to lay off that [3-2] pitch."
HE SAID IT
"I feel like they've had a good approach the entire series. I've got to do something to throw some timing off. I've got to change something up." -- Steckenrider, who has surrendered eight earned runs and issued five walks while recording just two outs in two appearances during this series. He had previously allowed two earned runs and walked three over 16 2/3 innings.
Sean Newcomb will take his 13-inning scoreless streak to the mound when the Braves and Marlins conclude a four-game series at 1:10 p.m. ET on Sunday. Newcomb has taken a significant step forward as he has used his changeup more frequently. The southpaw has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his past six starts. Miami will counter with Jose Urena, who had a 2.76 ERA in five starts against Atlanta last year.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.