The game got off to a tense start. The Miami Marlins’ first pitch of the night hit the Braves’ Ronald Acuna, who made his displeasure clear as he took first base. Before the next batter stepped in, Braves manager Brian Snitker was ejected for objecting to the umpires’ handling of the situation.
But Freddie Freeman’s bat soon made such tensions irrelevant to the game’s outcome.
Freeman hit two solo home runs and a two-run single, driving in four runs and scoring three, to power the Braves to a 5-1 win over the Marlins in the opener of a three-game series Tuesday night at SunTrust Park. The win, the Braves’ 13th in 17 games against Miami this season, extended Atlanta’s lead in the NL East to six games over the Washington Nationals.
Hard to believe now, but Freeman entered the night with three consecutive hitless games for the first time in almost two years, going 0-for-12 in the weekend series against the Dodgers.
“It was a long three days,” Freeman said of his weekend performance. “… I took the weekend off.”
“I knew after that series ... somebody was going to pay,” Snitker said. “It was inevitable. He doesn’t stay down like that.”
Before the weekend, Freeman hadn’t gone hitless in three consecutive games since Aug. 25-28, 2017.
His hits Tuesday came against three different pitchers. His 32nd homer of the season, a 368-footer to left field on a 1-1 changeup, tied the game in the fourth inning. His 33rd homer, a 394-foot shot to right field on a 1-1 fastball, put the Braves ahead in the fifth. Then his two-run single in the seventh provided some insurance.
After Freeman drove in the Braves’ first four runs, a Matt Joyce single scored Freeman with the final run.
Freeman’s four RBIs gave him 102 for the season with 35 games to play, topping his total of 98 RBIs in 162 games last season. He has 20 RBIs in 18 games this month, and he is just seven RBIs shy of his career high (109 in 2013).
“I’m just glad he’s on our side,” pitcher Dallas Keuchel said. “What a joy it is to watch him go to work every night.”
Keuchel (4-5) worked six innings for the second consecutive start and got the win. He surrendered a solo home run to Jon Berti in the third inning, but allowed no runs from the other five hits against him. He struck out seven, including his 1,000th career strikeout.
It was a notable turnaround from Keuchel’s previous outing against the Marlins: He allowed eight runs on 10 hits in 3-2/3 innings of an Aug. 8 start at Miami.
“I was able to make some pitches to some of their damage guys that I didn’t do in Miami,” Keuchel said. “I was very fortunate to navigate that lineup and have a rebound start. I was just trying to continue on from what the starters have been doing the last week and a half or two weeks.”
The Braves’ bullpen also had a good night, extending its recent success (one run allowed over its past 11-1/3 innings). Luke Jackson pitched a hitless seventh, striking out two. Shane Greene allowed two hits but struck out the other three batters in the eighth, working his fourth consecutive scoreless inning. Chris Martin pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, aided by a dazzling play by shortstop Hechavarria to end the game.
The series continues Wednesday night, with a pitching matchup of the Braves’ Julio Teheran (7-8, 3.71) vs. the Marlins’ Caleb Smith (8-6, 3.63).