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Freeman slugs past 100-RBI mark, fuels win

Slugger continues to build MVP resume with 2-homer, 4-RBI game
@mlbbowman
August 21, 2019

ATLANTA -- Though injuries have depleted the powerful depth possessed throughout the season’s first half, the Braves have continued to possess a formidable lineup thanks to the MVP-caliber production provided by each of their first four hitters. Freddie Freeman took his turn to carry the load as he drilled a

ATLANTA -- Though injuries have depleted the powerful depth possessed throughout the season’s first half, the Braves have continued to possess a formidable lineup thanks to the MVP-caliber production provided by each of their first four hitters.

Freddie Freeman took his turn to carry the load as he drilled a pair of solo homers and drove in the first four runs tallied by the Braves in a 5-1 win over the Marlins on Tuesday night at SunTrust Park. The All-Star first baseman’s big night followed the 0-for-12 performance he produced during this past weekend’s series win over the Dodgers.

Box score

“I knew after that series, somebody was going to pay,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It was inevitable. He doesn’t stay down like that. It was big tonight.”

After a sore left knee forced Brian McCann to exit Tuesday’s game and possibly become the team’s fifth key member placed on the injured list, Freeman opened the bottom of the fourth with a homer and added a fifth-inning solo shot that secured his second career 100-RBI season and moved him within one of matching the career-high homer total (34) he produced in 2016.

This was Freeman’s 15th career multihomer game and the second he has produced within the past five games. His two-run single in the seventh backed Dallas Keuchel’s second straight strong start and provided some cushion for a suddenly effective Braves bullpen, which has allowed just one run over the past 11 1/3 innings.

“You never get sick of seeing Freddie on your side,” Keuchel said. “I know I was sick of him when I faced him in Spring Training. That’s when stats don’t count. I’m just glad he’s on our side. What a joy it is to watch him go to work everyday.”

Keuchel notched seven strikeouts, the second of which marked the 1,000th of his career.

McCann could be the latest addition to an injured list which already includes four key position players -- Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson. Inciarte could miss the rest of the regular season and Markakis will be sidelined at least three more weeks. Riley and Swanson could begin playing in Minor League rehab games by the end of the week.

Despite Markakis and Swanson having already been sidelined for nearly a month, the Braves still lead the Nationals by six games in the National League East. They have been bolstered by the resurgence of their new relievers and the recent addition of Adeiny Hechavarria. But the bulk of the load has been carried by the first four hitters -- Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Freeman and Josh Donaldson.

Snitker ejected after Acuna hit by pitch in first

Acuna (1.149), Albies (.975), Freeman (1.105) and Donaldson (1.080) have each produced an OPS of at least .975 during August. A look at these numbers makes it easier to understand how, despite all of the injuries, the Braves have still averaged 5.44 runs through 18 August games. Their only higher monthly average was 6.68, which was produced during their ridiculous June run.

“This is an American League-style offense,” Keuchel said. “Even without a couple of our big guns, we’re still producing. The next-man-up mentality is real. It plays a part in a long season. But what those guys have been doing is nothing short of phenomenal.”

Acuna entered Tuesday with the NL’s fourth-best fWAR (5.0), and his current 133 Weighted Runs Created Plus matches the mark produced by Donaldson, who has picked up the pace over the past two months. Donaldson entered this series opener against the Marlins with the NL’s second-best fWAR (2.9) and wRC+(169) dating back to June 14.

Albies has cooled off recently, but the .935 OPS he’s produced while filling Swanson’s absence in the two hole has proven quite valuable. His ability to consistently get on base has aided steady Freddie, who has once again built a strong MVP resume with the 146 wRC+ he carried out of this latest multihomer effort.

“I took the weekend off, so hopefully I can jump back in there,” Freeman said. “It’s good. When you can count on four or five guys everyday, that gives us a good feeling going into those games.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.