PHOENIX – By now we know that Freddie Freeman plays in pain far better than most individuals. And that he manages better than almost anyone to keep injuries private for long periods, such as a cracked rib he played through earlier this season and now a finger injury we only learned about Sunday that he’s been dealing with for months.
And we only found out because he was out of the lineup and then didn’t even come to the on-base circle in a crucial late-innings situation when the Braves clearly would’ve used him to pinch-hit if he were available. So the questions were asked again afterward, and this time Freeman and the Braves couldn’t just say he was healthy and it was merely a day off.
But back to how well he plays hurt: In his past 61 games going back to June 13, Freeman has been among baseball’s most productive hitters, batting .332 (76-for-229) with 41 extra-base hits (15 home runs), 40 RBIs, a .428 OBP and .664 slugging percentage. That’s nearly a 1.100 OPS over those two-plus months.
And in his last 14 games before finally sitting one out Sunday, he hit .400 (18-for-45) with five doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs, 16 walks, six strikeouts and a .556 OBP and .911 slugging percentage.
Most teammates, coaches and the training staff knew about the rib injury and how it got so bad that Freeman in June that he had to skip batting practice and confine his swings to the games, so uncomfortable was the torque and rotation. But Freeman insisted publicly that he was healthy, as he almost always does even if he’s struggling.
Give the man credit, he never makes excuses, even when he has a valid one (an injury). And he never implies that he’s doing this or that or putting up these numbers in spite of an injury. He just goes about his business, which he’s been doing quite well after a couple of uncharacteristic early season slump.
He never wants out of the lineup. Fights to stay in it, in fact, whether surging or slumping. But this time, it was a fight he knew he couldn’t win.
Freeman got a cortisone injection in his right middle finger to reduce the inflammation in an injury he said has caused pain or discomfort since spring training. It had only bothered him on occasional swings until last week, when it got to the point where he couldn’t grip the bat without pain.
He got the injection after Saturday’s game and hopes to be back in the lineup Monday or Tuesday in Arizona.
It’s understandable if Freeman wants back in the lineup as soon as possible, particularly here at Arizona’s Chase Field, where he’s hit a blistering .406 (26-for-64) with seven doubles, six homers and 20 RBIs in 15 career games, with a .797 slugging percentage that’s his highest at any ballpark where he’s played more than five games.
The Braves, given their pitching woes, can ill afford to be without Freeman in the middle of their lineup. They’ve got to score plenty of runs lately to have much chance of winning, and Freeman has OPS’d over 1.000 since the All-Star break, batting .290 with 20 extra-base hits (eight homers), 24 RBIs, a .407 OBP and .597 slugging percentage in 34 games.
Next-most homers among Braves since the Braves are four apiece for Nick Markakis and Adonis Garcia, with Markakis hitting four in August and sharing with Freeman the team RBI lead this month with 16.
• Tonight’s matchup: Foltynewicz is 3-1 despite a 5.93 ERA in his past five starts. The Braves have provided 8.2 support runs per nine innings that he’s pitched in that span, including eight, six and seven runs while he was in the game during his three wins, all on the road, though he only worked between 5 1/3 innings and six innings in each of those wins.
In his past five starts, the Braves won his three road starts and his two home starts.
Folty has a 5-4 road record despite a 5.04 ERA and .305 opponents’ average in nine road starts, compared to a 1-1 record in seven home starts with a 3.69 ERA and impressive .196 OA.
His best two starts were on the road: May 14 vs. the Royals (eight scoreless innings, seven hits) and July 10 vs. the White Sox (seven scoreless innings, five hits, 10 strikeouts, no walks). Foltynewicz hasn’t had a scoreless outing this season at Turner Field.
However, he’s allowed 11 home runs and .537 slugging percentage in 50 innings on the road, compared to just three homers and a .319 slugging percentage in 39 innings at home. Again, the effect of run support can’t be overstated: Foltynewicz has received 5.2 support runs per nine innings pitched on the road, compared to 3.2 runs per nine innings at home.
The Braves scored three runs or fewer while he was in the game in six of his seven home starts, while in four of his five road wins they scored five, six, seven and eight runs while he was in the game.
Also worth noting, Foltynewicz is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in four day games, compared to 3-5 with a 5.71 ERA in 12 night games. He has 26 strikeouts, four walks and two homers allowed in 26 innings in day games, and 50 strikeouts, 24 walks and 12 homers allowed in 63 innings in night games.
Foltynewicz is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA and .306 opponents’ average in three starts against the Diamondbacks. But after struggling against them in two starts last season, he had one of his better starts in his only outing against them this season. Foltynewcz gave up five hits, two runs and no walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings of that May 8 game at Turner Field and got no decision in an 11-inning loss.
That was his second start of the season and his only walk-free start this season in Atlanta.
Arizona’s Jake Lamb is 3-for-6 against him, Yasmany Tomas is 2-for-3 and Paul Goldschmidt is 1-for-8 with four strikeouts.
Zack Godley will be making his 14th major league start and eight this season. The rookie is 4-2 with a 5.05 ERA in seven starts in 2016 and has no decisions and one save with a 4.05 ERA in seven relief appearances.
This will be his third start this month and second since moving back into the rotation after three relief appearances. He has a 3.81 ERA and .216 opponents’ average in his past six games (three starts) including a pair of quality starts. I
He got a win Wednesday against the Mets, allowed just five hits, two runs and two walks in 7 1/3 innings.
Godley has never face the Braves, and the only Brave who’s faced Godley is former Padre Matt Kemp (0-for-5 with one walk, two strikeouts).
The Braves are 2-9 with a 6.94 ERA in their past 11 games, and they’ve hit .246 with 13 homers and 50 runs in that period. It’s been a feast-or-famine sort of stretch for the offense, with the Braves scoring three runs or fewer in six of those 11 games games and six runs or more in the other five….
The Diamondbacks swept the Mets in a three-game series Aug. 9-11 in New York, but have gone 3-7 with a 6.75 ERA in 10 games since then. They were swept at Boston, lost two of three against the Mets at home, then lost three of four at San Diego in a series that ended with a 9-1 defeat on Sunday.
After hitting four homers in their last home game Wednesday against the Mets, the Diamondbacks hit just one homer in the four-game series at San Diego and were outscored 17-7 in the last three games of that series….
Eight of Yasmany Tomas’s 15 hits in August have been home runs. He has 13 RBIs and a .724 slugging percentage in 15 August games and has hit .298 (34-for-114) with 20 extra-base hits (12 homers) and a .693 slugging percentage in 29 games since the All-Star break.
Tomas has as many homers since the break as any other three Diamondbacks combined. Jean Segura’s five homers since the break are the next-most on the team. (FYI, Goldschmidt has hit .306 with three homers with an .883 OPS in 34 games since the break).
I’ll close with some real country from the great Marty Robbins, who was born and raised in Glendale, Ariz.
“BIG IRON” by Marty Robbins
To the town of Agua Fria rode a stranger one fine day
Hardly spoke to folks around him didn’t have too much to say
No one dared to ask his business no one dared to make a slip
For the stranger there among them had a big iron on his hip
Big iron on his hip
It was early in the morning when he rode into the town
He came riding from the south side slowly lookin’ all around
He’s an outlaw loose and running came the whisper from each lip
And he’s here to do some business with the big iron on his hip
Big iron on his hip
In this town there lived an outlaw by the name of Texas Red
Many men had tried to take him and that many men were dead
He was vicious and a killer though a youth of twenty four
And the notches on his pistol numbered one an nineteen more
One and nineteen more
Now the stranger started talking made it plain to folks around
Was an Arizona ranger wouldn’t be too long in town
He came here to take an outlaw back alive or maybe dead
And he said it didn’t matter he was after Texas Red
After Texas Red
Wasn’t long before the story was relayed to Texas Red
But the outlaw didn’t worry men that tried before were dead
Twenty men had tried to take him twenty men had made a slip
Twenty one would be the ranger with the big iron on his hip
Big iron on his hip
The morning passed so quickly it was time for them to meet
It was twenty past eleven when they walked out in the street
Folks were watching from the windows every-body held their breath
They knew this handsome ranger was about to meet his death
About to meet his death
There was forty feet between them when they stopped to make their play
And the swiftness of the ranger is still talked about today
Texas Red had not cleared leather fore a bullet fairly ripped
And the ranger’s aim was deadly with the big iron on his hip
Big iron on his hip
It was over in a moment and the folks had gathered round
There before them lay the body of the outlaw on the ground
Oh he might have went on living but he made one fatal slip
When he tried to match the ranger with the big iron on his hip
Big iron on his hip
Big iron Big iron