Braves enjoy atmosphere to start set vs. LA

As Freeman returns, Atlanta drops opener of NLCS rematch, still eager for 'exciting weekend'

June 25th, 2022

ATLANTA -- Ian Anderson knew Freddie Freeman was going to be showered with love. But the right-hander still found it hard to recover after the standing ovation his former teammate received during a tough first inning that sent the Braves to a 4-1 loss against the Dodgers on Friday night at Truist Park.

“That’s part of the reason we all love playing here,” Anderson said. “We knew the fans were going to give him a great reception. He deserved every second of it. It was hard to focus back in. It felt like I was underwater a little bit in that first inning. I was just moving a little slow.”

Anderson’s struggles during a 27-pitch first -- which resulted in two runs for Los Angeles -- proved significant enough for Freeman to win his first game as a visitor in Atlanta. The first baseman’s 12-season stint with the Braves ended in March, when the club's acquisition of Matt Olson led Freeman to sign a six-year, $162 million deal with the Dodgers.

“I thought the fans were unbelievable with the ovation they gave him,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “That guy meant a lot to us.”

While Freeman was deserving of the appreciation shown before the series opener, this weekend set is big for the Braves, who are looking to prove their success this month hasn’t simply been a product of a favorable schedule.

Atlanta has lost only four of its 22 games in June. But before taking three of four from the Giants earlier this week, the Braves hadn’t faced any teams with a winning record this month. So the final two games of this series vs. the Dodgers, and a three-game set vs. the Phillies that begins Tuesday, stand as good tests.

“This is going to be an exciting weekend,” Snitker said. “It’s going to be like playoff baseball every night.”

A sold-out crowd watching a rematch of the past two National League Championship Series created a postseason feel. But this didn’t look like the same Anderson who has a 1.26 ERA through his first eight career playoff starts.

Trea Turner singled to open the game, and he homered to begin a two-run fifth against Anderson, who allowed four earned runs over four-plus innings. It marked only the second time in his past 11 starts that the 24-year-old didn’t pitch into the sixth.

“He just got a little scattergun there in the first inning,” Snitker said.

Freeman received loud cheers when he received his 2021 World Series ring before the game, and the crowd of 42,105 gave him another long standing ovation before his first plate appearance. The veteran drew a walk and scored on Justin Turner’s sacrifice fly to cap the two-run first.

While the ovation may have briefly knocked Anderson off his game, he doesn’t regret being part of Freeman’s homecoming.

“It’s cool to be part of a moment like that,” Anderson said. “You don’t know if you’re ever going to get to do that again.”