Freddie Freeman picked a pretty good time for a power surge. The Braves first baseman had hit three home runs in six games heading into Saturday, including the walk-off shot that clinched a playoff berth for the Braves Tuesday night.
Freeman has a new career-high 23 home runs on the season, two more than he hit as a rookie last year. He also leads the Braves with 94 RBIs and could become the first Brave since Jeff Francoeur in 2007 to drive in 100 runs.
Francoeur drove in 105 runs in at age 23, his second full season in the majors. Freeman turned 23 on Sept. 12 and is in his second full season.
“I don’t consider myself a power hitter, I stay gap-to-gap,” Freeman said. “I guess I play at a position where I do need to hit some home runs, but my goal is to get hits, get on base, drive runs in when they’re on there, and if they do come by home runs, they come by home runs.”
The two-run shot he hit Tuesday night was the seventh game-ending home run to clinch a playoff berth in major league history, and only the second with his team trailing since Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.”
“It still hasn’t really hit me,” Freeman said. “That’s kind of cool though.”
Bullpen coach Eddie Perez was able to retrieve Freeman’s home run ball and he presented it to Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez on behalf of the coaches in honor of Gonzalez’s first postseason berth as a manager.
Freeman was fine with that, but joked: “I’ll take the ball when it really means something. When he gets the World Series championship, I’ll sneak into his office and take it.”
When Freeman hit a three-run home run off Roy Halladay Saturday, Sept. 22, to set the tone in a victory over the Phillies, he had been 2-for-his-previous-16. Freeman said he’s struggled to find consistency; he was hitting .265 overall entering Saturday.
“I’m still fighting some things,” Freeman said. “But I feel good one at-bat, I feel good another at-bat then all of a sudden it’s like ‘where’d it go.’ But I guess that’s baseball; it’s going to happen. I’m getting there. Instead of not feeling good for four straight games, I get a good feeling once a game. So it’s better than nothing. I’m starting to feel better when it starts to count.”
Speaking of feeling better, Freeman had been hampered by some injuries earlier this season, with vision problems caused by dry eyes in May and a finger injury he got colliding with shortstop Jose Reyes on a play at second base in June, but Freeman said it’s been much less of an issue lately.
“Sometimes when I don’t hit the ball on the sweet spot it gives me a little ring, but it’s not constant anymore,” Freeman said of his finger. ”That’s all I can really ask for right now.”