Freeman solves Marlins, sets tone behind Santana
Slugger's three-run shot ends 2-for-44 stretch vs. rival; righty fans 10
ATLANTA -- Even those oblivious to his tremendous talent would have to marvel at the futility Freddie Freeman has experienced against the Marlins this season. In fact, if looking simply at the offensive numbers, it would be easy to make the assumption that they were produced by a pitcher.
But with that being said, there are not many pitchers who are capable of producing the kind of power that Freeman displayed when he hit an opposite-field, three-run home run that helped the Braves gain a much-needed 6-1 win over the Marlins on Wednesday night.
"It obviously feels good," Freeman said. "I've been working hard the last couple of weeks trying to get the swing back. It was disappearing on me in Chicago, and I haven't been able to get it back, so I've been working hard. In [batting practice] today, I was able to find left-center, I was driving the ball to left-center again, so I was able to carry it over to the game and it's definitely a nice feeling. Hopefully I can keep going with that."
Though he was aware of the oddity that he had recorded just two hits in his first 44 at-bats against the Marlins this season, Freeman entered Wednesday more concerned about the fact that he had notched just two hits in his previous 28 at-bats going back to July 12. But he managed to release some frustration when he powered Marlins starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi's 2-2 curveball over the left-center-field wall during Atlanta's decisive four-run second inning.
"He's always a threat up there, regardless of how he's been swinging against us," Eovaldi said. "He's got power. He just went down there and hit a good pitch."
With Freeman halting his woes against the Marlins and Ervin Santanta notching one of his finest starts in more than a month, the Braves snapped a two-game skid and moved back to within one game of the first-place Nationals in the National League East race.
After totaling just three runs against the first two starting pitchers -- Tom Koehler and Jacob Turner -- they faced during this four-game set, the Braves had the unenviable task of getting back on track against Eovaldi, who had allowed two runs or fewer in eight of his previous nine starts against the Braves.
But like Freeman was due to break out against Miami, Eovaldi was due to experience some disappointment against Atlanta.
It did not take long for the hard-throwing Marlins right-hander to be introduced to frustration. Braves leadoff hitter B.J. Upton doubled and scored in the first inning. One inning later, Upton produced a high soft chopper that landed to the left of the mound for an infield single. Two batters later, Freeman showed off his power with his 14th homer of the season and first at Turner Field since May 19 -- a span of 124 plate appearances.
"It was nice to see [Freeman] get back on track," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He didn't get any hits [on Tuesday], but I thought his swings were getting better and better. Today, it was nice to see him get some production."
Because he went hitless the remainder of the game, Freeman still has just three hits in 47 at-bats against the Marlins. This stat is even more startling when looking at the fact the All-Star first baseman has hit .371 (53-for-143) against all other NL East opponents this year.
"It's just one of those things. I can't explain it," Freeman said. "You guys can't explain it. No one can explain it. It's just one of things that's usually going back and forth. The series before, I'm usually not doing very well and it carries over into the Marlins. It's just one of those things I guess, but I was finally able to get a hit tonight."
Eovaldi completed his seven innings without allowing a hit after Freeman's home run. But any hope of the Marlins erasing their significant early deficit evaporated as Santana worked his way toward allowing just one run and six hits in 7 1/3 innings. The Braves veteran, who has pitched into the eighth inning in two of his past four outings, also recorded 10 strikeouts, leaving him one shy of the season-high total he produced on April 14 in Philadelphia.
"I threw a lot strikes and I mixed all of the pitches that I had," Santana said. "It worked. So it was a good game today."