The Philadelphia Phillies are taking on the Atlanta Braves in a weekend series at Citizens Bank Park, and Braves’ 1st baseman is a major roadblock to Phils’ success.
My apologies for another missed Miami series in this regular “Opposition Roadblock” feature. I feel as though the Fish may be my writing kryptonite. They are not the Phillies’ kryptonite, however, because the boys in red pins took out the fish for the second straight series (now 4-2 in the young season).
I realize I am a day late on this Atlanta Braves series, but Freddie Freeman was going to be my pick. I went with Nick Markakis the last time around in Atlanta because I thought it was a fair surprise with everyone expecting me to highlight Freeman. However, there are really no other fitting players besides the Braves’ 1st baseman.
Aaron Nola and Brett Oberholtzer made some key mistakes against Freeman last night and it cost them. Nola very uncharacteristically left a pitch in the happy zone to Freeman in the third inning last night. Like most lefties, Freeman salivates on the ball low and in and Nola gave him just that.
It appeared as though catcher Cameron Rupp wanted the offering a bit more up in the zone, in a similar location to a pitch Nola used later in this start to strike Freeman out. Oberholtzer, meanwhile, simply left a pitch in the middle part of the outside corner and Freeman won’t miss those often.
The 26-year old accounted for four of the seven runs that would eventually doom the Phillies from what I was hoping would be a series sweep at home and a record putting them 10 games over the .500 mark. Now the club will have to work hard just to win the series.
Freeman has been in the Majors for seven seasons now. Amazing to think he came up when he was only 19 years old after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2007 MLB Draft.
He has twice been selected as an NL All-Star, and Freeman is seemingly the piece around which Braves’ GM Frank Wren wants to build his team heading into their new ballpark next year.
There is really no reason to ask why, considering Freeman has been unbelievably consistent both offensively and defensively since being called up. He has never dropped below an OPS of .790, hit for below a .250 average, or missed a season with 18 homeruns.
As a matter of fact, Freeman has eight dingers after last night, which puts him on pace for 32, which would be a career high. He is doing this with the likes of Markakis and Jeff Francoeur as his main sources of protection. He is also hitting a respectable .286 with a .930 OPS through 41 games.
The Phillies will have to find a way to control Freeman the rest of the series. Am I saying to give him the Bryce Harper treatment? Well, it certainly would not hurt. The Braves have no one else that scares me in that lineup.
The lefty-swinging Freeman is not significantly worse against lefties than righties, so it is not like he will be sitting with Adam Morgan throwing in this afternoon’s matchup. He is hitting .279/.371/.475 against lefties, and .267/.359/.489 against right-handers, proving it makes little difference who he matches up against.
Freeman is a player the Phillies could consider shifting, but when he sees pitches like he did last night, that makes not a difference in the world. Despite his pulled homerun, Freeman is known as someone who does not hit the inner half well. It explains why Nola and Rupp wanted to get in there.
However, when you miss where Nola missed, any lefty will make you pay. Freeman loves the ball on the outer half. HIs arm extension is what makes him dangerous. Oberholtzer learned that the hard way last night.
As the Phillies look to win yet another series, they place the ball into the hands of a struggling Morgan and inconsistent Jerad Eickhoff. Both youngsters will have to keep the ball in on Freeman’s hands, where he is likely to jam himself and hit some dribblers into a shifted right side of the infield.
If the two Phillies starters are unable to deliver, they could be looking at an embarrassing series loss at home to the worst team in baseball.