DENVER – After watching Freddie Freeman hit five homers against them in five games over a 15-day span, the Colorado Rockies didn’t need more evidence to know the Braves first baseman was a special rookie.
But here’s more: Freeman’s three runs driven in during Monday’s 7-4 win against the Rockies raised his season total to 50 RBIs, making him the first Braves rookie to get 50 by July 18 since the great Hank Aaron in 1954.
“It’s pretty impressive to see,” said Braves pitcher Derek Lowe (6-7), who was staked to an early 5-0 lead Monday. “I think if you ask him, this is probably how he anticipated him hitting all along. That’s what makes good young hitters and pitchers so successful — this isn’t a big jump for these guys. They expect to hit like this.
“He’s added a tremendous amount of power to the middle of our lineup.”
Freeman went 3-for-5 including a 442-homer to straightaway center field in the third inning, his 14th homer of the season and ninth in 31 games. It made him 10-for-19 with five homers and 10 RBIs in five games – all wins – against Colorado this month.
“I guess it’s just one of those stretches,” said the 21-year-old California native. “I feel good. Everything’s connected. I’m just going up the middle. When you go up through the middle, there no defense up there, so you have [margin] for error.”
Freeman has hit .316 with a .375 on-base percentage and .547 slugging percentage in his past 49 games before Tuesday, after hitting .227 with four homers, a .319 OBP and .355 slugging perecentage in his first 43 games.
With the series-opening win, the Braves improved to a National League-best 44-24 since May 1. Freeman was a major part of that, especially since some established Braves hitters were hurt or slumped in that period.
He drove in 23 runs in his past 20 games, making him the third Braves rookie with more than 20 RBIs in a 20-game span since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966, according to Elias Sports Bureau. David Justice had 25 RBIs in 20 games in August 1990, and Bob Horner had 22 in 20 games in August 1978.
“He’s swinging a hot bat right now,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Both of those guys, [Brian] McCann and him, are right where you want them to be in the middle of the lineup right now. And it doesn’t matter if it’s lefties, righties, they hit both.”