3 hits in opener for Freeman, now he can get down to business

 

 

NEW YORK – If you recall clearly when Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward were 19-year-old non-roster invitees in Braves camp, then you might find it a little hard to comprehend Freeman made his seventh consecutive opening-day start Monday for the Braves.

Freddie Freeman gets a pat on the back from third-base coach Ron Washington after Freeman’s opening-day triple Monday against the Mets. (Getty Images)

But he did, extending his own record for most consecutive OD starts by an Atlanta first baseman, a record that had belonged to Chris Chambliss, who had five.

The Braves got shut out, 6-0 — right now they’re the only major league team that hasn’t scored a run this season — but Freeman did what he usually does against the Metropolitans, going 3-for-4 with a triple for a .480 average (23-for-48) with eight extra-base hits (two homers) in a 12-game hitting streak against them.

It was one of the better individual opening-day performances for Freeman, who admits he’s someone who likes to get OD and all of its accompanying anxiety or anticipation out of the way so he can get down to the regular grind of playing the remaining 161 games on the schedule. Before his three hits Monday, he was 5-for-22 with two homers in season openers.

“Opening day, it doesn’t matter who you are, you get those butterflies in your stomach,” he said Monday morning, a few hours before the first pitch. “Six months of waiting for it to happen — when the season ends you just want it to get here again. There’s a lot of excitement. You actually just want to get this game over with so you can relax and go about your business.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, opening day is tough. You want to do so well. You’re so antsy. Sometimes you can be so emotionally wanting to do well that you do bad. So it’s hard to (control) those emotions.”

While opening day is in the books, the Braves still have the pomp and circumstance of three more home openers – at Pittsburgh on Friday (a day game after a series-finale night game in NYC), at Miami on Tuesday and, of course, at home April 14 in the official first game at SunTrust Park.

“I think a lot of guys just want opening day to be over with so they can get back into the normalcy of playing,” Freeman said. “You’ve got to go out (on the field) 30 minutes before the game (for introductions on opening day), and we’ve got four of them this year. But every opening day is special. You can remember every single one. I don’t get nervous, but I think it’s just the anxiousness to get going. Once that first pitch happens, you just kind of forget about everything.”

The demands or anxiousness of opening day didn’t keep Freeman from continuing his torrid spring – he hit .489 (23-for-47) with two homers in spring training – or adding to his strong career numbers against the Mets: He’s hit .319 with 54 extra-base hits (18 homers), a .389 OBP and .542 slugging percentage in 108 games against them, which works out to a .930 OPS.

While impressive, it’s actually just his third-highest OPS against an NL team, behind his .970 in 39 games against the Rockies and his stunning 1.183 OPS in 34 game against the Diamondbacks. He’s hit .380 with 12 homers and 37 RBIs in 34 games against the Dbacks including eight homers with 24 RBIs and a .788 slugging percentage in 19 games at Chase Field.

His numbers at Citi Field don’t come close to those gaudy stats, but Freeman has been a nemesis for the Mets at their place, which is across a parking lot from the site of old Shea Stadium, where the Braves’ Chipper Jones was the greatest Mets nemesis of all.

At Citi Field, Freeman has hit .333 (75-for-225) with 32 extra-base hits (eight homers), a .390 OBP and .551 slugging percentage, for a .941 OPS that’s his fifth-highest at an NL ballpark and his highest at any NL East park.

And just in case you’re wondering, Freeman hit .289 with 64 homers, 250 RBIs and an .860 OPS in 447 games at Turner Field, which is currently being converted to a football stadium for Georgia State University.

• Cabrera update: Before Monday’s game, Braves manager Brian Snitker provided an update on second-year reliever Mauricio Cabrera, who missed the last couple of weeks of spring training with a sore elbow.

“He’ll start throwing soon. It feels good,” the manager said. “The big thing will come when the – I don’t know when (Cabrera’s first play-catch session) is, all that kind of stuff; we’ve been so busy with everything that I’ve kind of lost track of it. But in talking to the trainers when we were home, they talked to Mo and he was feeling good. They have the progression (throwing program) they have when they do these kind of things.  But (overall) it’s very positive, so that’s a good thing.”

Snitker said Cabrera wouldn’t have to start from scratch in his throwing program, since he had built up plenty of arm strength and has been sidelined a relatively short period. There was no timetable for his return, but he will require a minor league rehab assignment and would need to be capable of throwing a two-inning stint before he’s activated by the Braves.

• Minter, too: Lefty A.J. Minter, who missed most of spring training with a nerve irritation near his elbow, has been throwing and could join a minor league team within a week, Braves GM John Coppolella said. The Braves believed before his spring injury that Minter would make an impact on the major league team this season, and they still do barring any further setbacks.

• On this day in 1980, R.E.M. played its first show in Athens, Ga., at an old church on Oconee Street. The steeple is all that remains of that church, but the legacy of R.E.M. will never fade. What a band. Oh, and they were playing that gig at the church for a birthday party for Kathleen O’Brien. I like to consider her a cousin of sorts.

I don’t know if the lyrics are exactly correct, but back then it didn’t seem to matter too much. They were genius, in the minds of many of us. Still are. (I’ll ask Mike Mills on Twitter to check ’em out and make any corrections.)

“GARDENING AT NIGHT” by R.E.M.

I see your money on the floor I felt the pocket change
Though all the feelings that broke through that door
Just didn’t seem to be too real
The yard is nothing but a fence the sun just hurts my eyes.
Somewhere it must be time for penitence. Gardening at night is never where
Gardening at night. Gardening at night. Gardening at night

The neighbors go to bed at ten
Call the prayer line for a change
The charge is changing every month
They said it couldn’t be arranged

We ankled up the garbage sound, but they were busy in the rows
We fell up, not to see the sun, gardening at night just didn’t grow
I see your money on the floor, I felt the pocket change
Though all the feelings that broke through that door
Just didn’t seem to be too real
Gardening at night. Gardening at night. Gardening at night

Your sister said that you’re too young
They should know they’ve been there twice
The call was two and fifty one
They said it couldn’t be arranged

I see your money on the floor, I felt the pocket change
Though all the feelings that broke through that door
Just didn’t seem to be too real
We ankled up the garbage sound, but they were busy in the rows
We fell up not to see the sun, gardening at night just didn’t grow
Gardening at night. Gardening at night. Gardening at night

 


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