Freeman powers Braves over Nats on his birthday
WASHINGTON -- The combination of Freddie Freeman batting on his birthday against Gio Gonzalez spelled trouble for the National League East division champions.
Freeman, who turned 28 on Tuesday, hit his longest homer of the season against Gonzalez as the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 8-0 with the aid of seven doubles and two homers.
“Getting the win is more important than getting the hit,” Freeman said.
Freeman went deep for the third time in his career against Gonzalez, crushing a 443-foot shot to straightaway center field in the third. It was the first homer Gonzalez gave up to a left-handed hitter this year.
“My approach with Freddie was (throw) a 3-0 changeup and 3-1 fastball,” Gonzalez said of the three-run blast. “He just got the fastball. That was on me. I gave him the pitch he wanted.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker had an idea for Freeman on Wednesday.
“Tell him (his birthday) is tomorrow, too,” Snitker said.
Freeman, a lefty swinger from California, has hit better than .400 on his birthday. He said the fact the Nationals clinched the East title Sunday may have played into the hands of the Braves.
“A little hangover for them. They just won the division two days ago,” said Freeman, who has 26 homers and is hitting .323 in 99 games.
The offensive outburst helped Atlanta starter Julio Teheran post his third win over the Nationals this year.
“He has been good the last couple of starts,” Freeman said. “Hopefully he can ride this thing to the end of the season.”
Teheran pitched seven strong innings, Freeman was 3-for-5 and Ozzie Albies went 3-for-5 to aid the Braves.
It was the first game for the Nationals (88-56) since they clinched their second straight National League East title on Sunday. The Braves (65-78) are 5-3 in Washington this season after going 1-19 at Nationals Park the previous two years.
Teheran (11-11) gave up seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts while throwing 101 pitches. Luke Jackson came on in the eighth and threw two innings to complete the shutout.
The losing pitcher was Gio Gonzalez (14-7), who is 4-11 in his career against the Braves and has failed to beat them in his past seven attempts. He gave up five runs on seven hits with one walk and eight strikeouts in five innings.
“I think Gio was just trying to be aggressive, trying to get back in the game and get deeper in the game,” Washington catcher Matt Wieters said. “And when he made a couple mistakes, Freddie gets to 3-1 and hits a three-run homer. That was really the big blow. It’s just a matter of the guy’s a good hitter, and it’s tough when you get behind him to keep making pitches on him.”
Johan Camargo and Ender Inciarte each had two doubles for the Braves. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael A. Taylor had two hits apiece for Washington.
Atlanta quickly took a 1-0 lead in the first on Matt Kemp’s RBI single. The hit scored Albies, who singled to extend his hitting streak to 10 games and stole second.
Atlanta made it 4-0 in the third on Freeman’s blast. Inciarte extended the lead to 5-0 with a two-out RBI double down the left field line in the fourth.
The Braves assumed a 6-0 lead in the sixth off reliever A.J. Cole as Teheran had an RBI single to score Dansby Swanson, who had doubled with two outs.
Albies’ solo homer in the seventh made it 7-0 off Cole (two innings, three runs), and Kurt Suzuki added an RBI double.
Said Washington manager Dusty Baker: “They have a good lineup over there. We had some opportunities to score. Gio wasn’t as sharp tonight. Freddie continues to hit us hard.”
Teheran is 6-4 against Washington in his career.
“Julio has been pretty good here the last few times,” Snitker said. “His stuff has been very good. He is getting that extra (on his fastball) when he needs to.”
NOTES: The Braves optioned C Tony Sanchez to Triple-A Gwinnett. He was hitless in one-bat for Atlanta this year. ... Washington RHP Max Scherzer (14-5, 2.32 ERA) will face Atlanta RHP Luiz Gohara (0-1, 13.50) in the second game of the series Wednesday. ... Atlanta 1B Matt Adams (right hamstring) did not play Tuesday. ... Washington OF Jayson Werth, bothered by a sore shoulder, did not play for the fifth game in a row.