Sluggers Freeman, Thames headline weekend series

MILWAUKEE – It wasn’t long ago when a majority of baseball’s best hitters played for American League teams, but we’ve seen that pendulum swing strongly to the National League lately and perhaps never more than now.

The Brewers’ Eric Thames leads the majors in home runs (11) and OPS (1.393) and slugging percentage (.904) and has 10 homers in his past 14 games entering Friday’s series opener against the Braves. (AP photo)

To wit, the top five OPS totals in the majors this season currently belong to National League players, as do eight of the top nine batting averages. And when the Braves face the Brewers in a three-game series beginning tonight in Milwaukee, two of three hottest early season hitters will be squaring off in Freddie Freeman and Eric Thames. (The other of the three is nemesis Nat Bryce Harper, whom the Braves have already seen more than enough of thankyaverymuch.)

The Braves are coming off a two-game sweep of the limping, stumbling, now-last-place Mets at Citi Field, where the Braves have won nine of the last 11 games between the teams going back to mid-June including three sweeps in four series at the Flushing ballpark.

But the Bravos are trending in the opposite direction against the Brewers, regardless of venue. Going back to July 7, 2015, that fateful series finale when the Braves blew a lead at Miller Park in a loss that began their staggering decline, the Braves are 2-6 with a 4.14 ERA and 22 runs scored in their past eight games against the Brewers.

This after a 12-game stretch from April 1, 2014, through 7/6/2015 that saw the Braves go 10-2 with a 2.95 ERA and 50 runs scored against the Brewers.

Thames is the most improbable of early storylines in the majors this season, a 30-year-old who played the past three seasons in Korea after hitting .232 with nine homers and a .672 OPS in a total of 271 at-bats for Toronto and Seattle in 2012.

Now look at him: Thames leads the majors with a 1.393 OPS and Freeman is third at 1.269, with Bryce Harper (1.358) between them. Thames also leads MLB with a bloated .904 slugging percentage, with Freeman (.775) fourth behind Nationals duo Harper (.823) and Ryan Zimmerman (.800).

Harper leads the majors in on-base percentage by a pretty wide margin at .535, with Freeman next at .494 and Thames fourth at .489. Harper also leads the majors with a .418 batting average, while Freeman (.380) is fourth and Thames (.380) is sixth.

Five of the majors top nine batting averages belong to NL East players including the Braves’ Brandon Phillips (.352), who ranks ninth. Phillips left Wednesday’s game at New York with a groin strain and didn’t play Thursday, but the Braves were hoping to have him back during the Brewers series and possibly as soon as tonight. (We’ll know when the lineup is posted at around 3 p.m.)

The Braves and Bartolo Colon probably hoped that Thames would’ve cooled by now, but he hasn’t. In his past 14 games, Thames is 20-for-51 (.392) with three doubles, 10 home runs, 13 walks, 10 strikeouts, .523 OBP, 1.039 slugging (1.562 OPS). Yes, 10 homers in 14 games.

Did we mention Thames leads the majors with 11 homers? Harper and Zimmerman are next with eight each, while Freeman and 12 others have seven apiece.

The Braves could also have their hands full with Brewers starter Chase Anderson, who is 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in four starts and has allowed 19 hits (one homer) and six walks with 22 strikeouts in 24 innings. He has allowed earned runs totals of 1, 0, 2 and 0 in his starts while lasting 6, 7, 5 and 6 innings, throwing fewer than 90 pitches in each and issuing two or fewer walks in each.

Against Anderson, Matt Kemp is 6-for-17 with a double, two homers, Phillips is 3-for-11 with a homer and Freeman is 3-for-5 with a homer.

Against Colon, Thames is 2-for-5 with two doubles and Ryan Braun is 3-for-9 with a homer. No other Brewer has more than one hit against Big Sexy and Jonathan Villar is 1-for-10 with three strikeouts against him.

By the way, in Freeman’s past two series at Miller Park — in 2014 and 2016 — he went 8-for-22 (.364) with two doubles, four homers, seven walks, a .500 OBP and 1.000 slugging percentage.

• Dansby update: Rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson hasn’t had a multi-hit game this season, and in his past 14 games he’s 6-for-52 (.115) with no extra-base hits, two RBIs, two walks, 15 strikeouts and a .148 OBP and .115 slugging percentage (.264 OPS).

With runners on base this season he’s hit .069 (2-for-29) with a .225 OPS. In two-strike counts, Swanson is 4-for-48 (.083) with four singles, no walks and 22 strikeouts.

• Let’s close with this one from the great Jerry Lee Lewis.

“WHAT’S MADE MILWAUKEE FAMOUS” by Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis

It’s late and she’s waiting
And I know I should go home

But every time I start to leave
They play another song
Then someone buys another round
And wherever drinks are free
What’s made Milwaukee famous
Has made a fool out of me

Baby’s begged me not to go
So many times before
She says love and happiness
Can’t live behind those swinging doors
Now’s she’s gone and I’m to blame
Too late I finally see
What’s made Milwaukee famous
Has made a loser out of me

Baby’s begged me not to go
So many times before
She says love and happiness
Just can’t live behind those swinging doors
Now’s she’s gone and I’m to blame
Too late I finally see
What’s made Milwaukee famous
Has made a loser out of me
What’s made Milwaukee famous
Has made a loser out of me


View Comments 0