Anyone still concerned about every-day Freddie? Don’t be

 

Overshadowed by Dansby Swanson’s major league debut Wednesday was the continued surge of Freddie Freeman, who hit his career-high 24th home run and sixth in 11 games, a game-tying two-run shot in the third inning against the Twins.

Swanson’s two hits and Freeman’s homer – as well as a Nick Markakis ninth-inning homer – all went for naught as the bullpen came apart, giving up eight runs in an ugly 10-3 loss to the Twins.

Remember when a lot of people were opining that Freddie Freeman wasn't healthy, couldn't stay on the field, needed to be benched a few days, yada yada yada? Nevermind. (AP photo)

Remember when so many people online and on the airwaves were opining that Freddie Freeman wasn’t healthy, couldn’t stay on the field, needed to be benched a few days, blah blah blah? Nevermind. (AP photo)

But for Freeman it continued a torrid stretch of hitting that’s now in its third month, a substantial stretch that should put to rest any chatter about the big first baseman having lingering issues with his hand/wrist – he’s had no such issues – or about him being able to stay on the field.

He’s played 119 of the Braves’ 120 games and is on his way to playing at least 147 games for the fifth time in his six major league seasons and at least 157 games for the third time. Think about that, and then how ridiculous it was for some folks to insist that Freeman was injury-prone and couldn’t stay healthy.

As for last night’s homer off Twins righty Kyle Gibson – who threw the first nine-inning complete game of his career – Freeman hit it on a first pitch, his eighth homer this season on a first pitch. He’s hitting a whopping .470 (31-for-66) with 15 extra-base hits and a .955 slugging percentage when he puts the first pitch in play.

As for that extended surge, Freeman in his past 58 games has hit .336 (73-for-217) with 39 extra-base hits (five triples, 15 home runs), 33 walks, a .434 OBP and .677 slugging percentage. That’s an OPS over 1.100 for 58 games, folks.

In his last 11 games he’s sizzled at 15-for-33 (.455) with six homers, 13 RBIs, 15 walks, three strikeouts and a .620 OBP. The 15 walks and three strikeouts in that period are another encouraging sign for Freeman, whose 129 strikeouts are already tied for third-most in his career, 16 behind the career-high 145 he had in 708 plate appearances in 2014 when he played all 162 games.

A curious side note: Wednesday’s homer was Freeman’s first in 13 home games going back to July 3, and gave him four RBIs at Turner Field in that span. In the same period on the road he has nine homers and 21 RBIs in 26 games. (For the season he has 11 homers in 59 home games and 13 in 60 road games.)

Notice the recent disparity in home-road games in the Braves’ schedule. Yes, if it feels like they’ve been on the road a lot in the second half, it’s because they have.

Going back to July 3, the Braves have played 13 home games and 26 road games – and one of those “home” games was the July 3 game at Fort Bragg, in which the Braves were the designated home team. Counting that game, the Braves have played 27 of their past 39 games away from Atlanta.

At the end of the trip to Arizona and San Francisco that starts Monday, the Braves will have played 34 games away from home in a 50-game span.

• Thursday’s matchup: It’ll be the fourth career start for both Rob Whalen and the Nationals’ Reynaldo Lopez, and the second time in six days that the 22-year-old right-handed rookies are facing each other.

Whalen gave up personal highs of six hits, six runs and two homers in five innings of a 7-6 Braves loss Saturday at Nationals Park, where he struck out five and walked none. The Braves won his first two starts including Aug. 8 at Milwaukee when Whalen had his only quality start (six innings, five hits, three runs).

After not making it out of the fifth inning in his first two starts, Lopez pitched seven strong innings against the Braves for his first win Saturday, allowing only five hits, one run and two walks. He had given up 14 hits, nine runs and six walks in 8 2/3 innings over his first two starts.

Freddie Freeman had a homer and a walk in three plate appearances Saturday vs. Lopez, while Nats rookie Trea Turner went 3-for-3 with a homer against Whalen. Daniel Murphy also homered against him as Murphy continued to mash indiscriminately against Braves pitchers of all description.

By the way, Turner is another prospect traded away in the past couple of years by Padres GM A.J. Preller, who seems quite fortunate to still be employed in that position.

Speaking of Whalen, after gets behind in counts 1-0, hitters are 9-for-28 (.321) against him with five extra-base hits (two homers), five walks, a hit batter and a .441 OBP and .714 slugging percentage. Yikes.

• Etc:

The Braves are 1-6 with a 7.32 ERA and 26 runs scored in their past seven games, after going 6-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 38 runs scored in their previous seven games….

The Braves have lost nine of their past 10 against the Nationals while getting out-homered 13-6 and outscored 48-26. Since the beginning of the 2015 season, the Braves are 6-22 with a 5.34 ERA and .232 batting average against the Nationals, and have been out-homered 35-13 and outscored 157-84….

In his past 35 games, Nick Markakis has hit .305 (40-for-131) with seven doubles, six homers, 21 RBIs, a .367 OBP and .496 slugging percentage. In his past 65 games (beginning June 5) he’s hit .295 with a .349 OBP and .438 slugging percentage….

Erick Aybar hit .182 with four extra-base hits, a .225 OBP, .209 slugging percentage and six RBIs in his first 44 games for the Braves. In his next 53 games before he was traded Tuesday, Aybar hit .289 (54-for-187) with 14 extra-base hits, a .346 OBP, .396 slugging percentage and 20 RBIs. In his last 19 games with the Braves, Aybar hit .360 (27-for-75) with three doubles, two triples, one homer, a .387 OBP and .493 slugging percentage.

• I’ll close with this majestic tune from the most soulful of Irish singer-songwriters, Van the Man.

“ASTRAL WEEKS” by Van Morrison

Van Morrison

Van Morrison

If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dream
Where immobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again
From the far side of the ocean
If I put the wheels in motion
And I stand with my arms behind me
And I’m pushin’ on the door
Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again
There you go
Standin’ with the look of avarice
Talkin’ to Huddie Ledbetter
Showin’ pictures on the wall
Whisperin’ in the hall
And pointin’ a finger at me
There you go, there you go
Standin’ in the sun darlin’
With your arms behind you
And your eyes before
There you go
Takin’ good care of your boy
Seein’ that he’s got clean clothes
Puttin’ on his little red shoes
I see you know he’s got clean clothes
A-puttin’ on his little red shoes
A-pointin’ a finger at me
And here I am
Standing in your sad arrest
Trying to do my very best
Lookin’ straight at you
Comin’ through, darlin’
Yeah, yeah, yeah
If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams
Where immobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
Could you find me
Would you kiss-a my eyes
Lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again
To be born again
In another world
In another world
In another time
Got a home on high
Ain’t nothing but a stranger in this world
I’m nothing but a stranger in this world
I got a home on high
In another land
So far away
So far away
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
In another time
In another place
In another time
In another place
Way up in the heaven
Way up in the heaven
We are goin’ up to heaven
We are goin’ to heaven
In another time
In another place
In another time
In another place
In another face