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Freeman keys big win, Braves turnaround

First baseman enjoys 5-hit night, leads charge for young team
May 10, 2018

MIAMI -- After spending the past few years enduring the painful portion of a rebuild, Freddie Freeman has taken great delight in watching the youthful duo of Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. energize a first-place Braves club that has quickly begun to come into its own.Freeman provided a career-high

MIAMI -- After spending the past few years enduring the painful portion of a rebuild, Freddie Freeman has taken great delight in watching the youthful duo of Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. energize a first-place Braves club that has quickly begun to come into its own.
Freeman provided a career-high five hits, and Albies drilled his first career grand slam as the Braves claimed their eighth straight road victory with Thursday night's 9-2 win over the Marlins at Marlins Park. Three straight victories have followed the season-high three-game losing streak that occurred during last weekend's series against the Giants.
"Knowing when you come to the yard every single day that you've got a chance to win, that's what it's all about," Freeman said. "That's what you play the game for. This group of guys right here, we're going to be right there at the end."
Six weeks into this season, the Braves have steadily legitimized their spot atop the National League East standings. They possess a dynamic offense that has benefited from the strong All-Star bid produced by Albies, who highlighted his career-high five-RBI performance with a two-out, tiebreaking grand slam hit off Drew Steckenrider during a seven-run sixth inning.

Albies' 11th homer of the young season was followed by the two-run shot supplied by Freeman, a potential MVP candidate, who no longer has to be the team's offensive star on a nightly basis. Albies, Acuna and a rejuvenated Nick Markakis have been catalysts within a high-powered offense that is now starting to get regular contributions from Ender Inciarte, who highlighted his three-hit night with two hits in the sixth inning -- a single and an RBI double.
Mike Foltynewicz allowed one run over five innings for the Braves, who have won 10 of 14 since dropping two straight games to the Reds in April. This youthful bunch also showed some resiliency by winning four of six after squandering a five-run eighth-inning lead to the Cubs on April 14.

"When you handle adversity, good things are on the other end," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I think a lot of it is confidence in their abilities. It's just a short spurt. We just go out and get them tomorrow."
Many of the Braves have spoken about the camaraderie that exists within the clubhouse. The bonds were fortified on Sunday, when nearly every player attended a dinner organized by Freeman and Brandon McCarthy at Tampa's famous Bern's Steakhouse. By the end of the evening, the bitter taste created during the Giants' series was a distant memory.
"You've just got to keep coming back," Freeman said. "I think that off-day [on Monday] was huge after getting swept at home. We had a little team dinner when we got to Tampa [Sunday night]. You just forget about that and go back out and play. We've been able to bounce back when we've had our tough little stretches."
Wise choice: Foltynewicz righted himself after a tough first inning and kept the Marlins scoreless until Martin Prado delivered a game-tying single in the fifth. The Braves right-hander had thrown just 86 pitches before being pulled for pinch-hitter Preston Tucker, who drew a two-out, four-pitch walk to load the bases just ahead of Albies' grand slam.
"He didn't go up there overanxious," Snitker said. "He was patient and didn't chase. It was a really good [plate appearance] by [Tucker]. You get a [pinch-hit at-bat] like that with an opportunity to do something and you can kind of get out of your strike zone. But he had a real good, patient at-bat."
The 21-year-old Albies became the youngest Braves player to tally a grand slam since a 20-year-old Andrew Jones did on Aug. 31, 1997. Albies became the youngest Major Leaguer to hit a slam since Texas' Rougned Odor hit one Aug. 27, 2014, when he was still just 20 years old.
Luiz Gohara was credited with his first career save as he limited the Marlins to one run over the final three innings. This was the season debut for the highly-touted left-handed pitching prospect, who has endured a lot of heartache and frustration over the past five months. His father died in December and his mother has been battling a serious illness back in their native Brazil. The 21-year-old lefty was projected to be in Atlanta's rotation before he was sidelined with a strained groin and sprained ankle during Spring Training.

Gohara's four-seam fastball sat around 95 mph and touched 97.2 mph. This was encouraging because his heater had been clocked in the low 90s as he spent the past couple weeks with Triple-A Gwinnett.
"That's real special," Gohara said. "I know my dad has been watching me the whole day, every day. I know mom is there too. She'll probably be watching and see that game and she's going to be proud."
"[Bench coach Walt Weiss] was saying that today. He said, 'Freddie is fixin' to get hot.' That's just what the guy is capable of. He does something like that and you don't even say, 'Wow' anymore because it's just him." -- Snitker on Freeman, who raised his batting average from .301 to .326 with his first five-hit game
Brandon McCarthy will attempt to get back on track when the Braves and Marlins resume their four-game set on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Marlins Park. McCarthy allowed a career-high eight earned runs to the Giants in his last start. Dan Straily will be the first right-handed starter the Braves have faced since Saturday.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001.