MVP candidate Freeman leads Braves against Red Sox


Atlanta Braves standout Freddie Freeman might be in the favorite’s role for National League MVP after his latest show-stopping exploits.

Freeman and the Braves host the Boston Red Sox on Saturday in their next-to-last game of the regular season, one night after Freeman delivered a two-run walk-off blast in the 11th inning to give Atlanta a dramatic 8-7 victory.

The victory clinched the No. 2 seed for Atlanta in the National League playoffs, and it also provided a signature moment for Freeman’s MVP candidacy. He is batting .341 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs for the Braves (35-23)

“I said last week that he absolutely should (win it),” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said after Saturday’s wild contest. “The guy is having an unbelievable year.

“You talk about MVPs and what a guy means to your team, and we’re a first-place team. He checks all the boxes.”

Freeman certainly enjoyed his fifth career walk-off blast, and the occasion made him reflect back on the entire season.

The 31-year-old contracted the coronavirus in early July and his temperature skyrocketed to 104.5 on July 3. His body was so hot and he was so fearful that he prayed and he had a request: “Please don’t take me.”

Two weeks later, he was recovered and reported to the Braves. Then his concern was that the season was one week away and he hadn’t faced any live pitching since March.

Seems that should have been the least of his concerns based on his performance.

“I’m feeling pretty good. It’s been an up-and-down year, I can tell you that,” Freeman said during a postgame television interview. “It’s been an absolute grind.

“It just makes you appreciate everything that you do and all the work that goes into this. Having just five days of practice and trying to hit big league pitching, obviously it took me a couple weeks to get my legs under me. But it feels like it has been 162 games, I can tell you that.

“It’s been fun and when you clinch the division and now we have clinched the No. 2 seed with this win, it’s big.”

Freeman’s decisive 415-foot homer was the biggest hit on Friday, but it wasn’t the longest. Teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. hit a 495-foot blast that is the longest in the majors this season.

Friday’s contest was a back-and-forth affair where the two teams combined for 12 of the game’s 15 runs over the final 4 innings.

Boston (22-36) took leads in both the 10th and 11th innings but wasn’t able to hold them.

“Tough loss,” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “I’m really happy with the offense. They battled great. We get behind, they came back and kept doing it. So offensively, I thought we did a great job.

“We just didn’t pitch as well in the late innings once we got the lead. It’s a shame to lose a game like this to a really good team. When you battle that well offensively, you hope to win that.”

Boston is limping to the finish line of a highly disappointing campaign, and one of the players feeling the most regret is J.D. Martinez.

The season has been a disaster for the slugger, who bashed 79 homers over the previous two seasons. He has just six this season, along with 25 RBI and a .218 average.

“I’ve (stunk). I haven’t been very good,” Martinez said. “I feel like I’m not in the boat alone. I feel like there’s a lot of really, really good players and a lot of really, really good talent out there that have had the same season, if not worse than me.

“I think it’s just a very weird year. You’re expected to perform at elite levels when there’s an entire epidemic going on in the world. It’s not really an excuse, but it’s tough. It’s a lot to ask.”

Right-hander Tanner Houck (2-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his third career start for Boston. The 24-year-old has allowed one unearned run and three hits over 11 innings.

Left-hander Tucker Davidson will make his major league debut for Atlanta. He has a 20-24 minor league record and 2.86 ERA since being a 19th-round draft pick in 2016.

–Field Level Media

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