The Atlanta Braves are trying to clinch a trip to the World Series in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers on Thursday night. In the top of the first Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman helped that cause in a big way when he mashed a two-run home run off "opener" Joe Kelly. Here's a look:
Freeman barreled up that knuckle curve in a big way, as he hit it 109.2 mph off the bat and sent it 425 feet. That was good for a 2-0 Braves in the first, and that gave them a 67.8 percent chance of winning this clinching game.
This big blast comes after Freeman in Game 4 homered, doubled, and walked. In Game 3, he notched three opposite-field singles and walked. None of that should be all that surprising in a vacuum, given that we're talking about the reining NL MVP and his career OPS+ of 138.
Freeman's outburst, however, comes after he looked completely lost at the plate in Games 1 and 2. In those contests, he went a combined 0 for 8 and began the series by striking out in seven straight plate appearances. Sure, even a hitter as accomplished as Freeman can endure a hitless stretch, but striking out in seven straight trips is a troubling indicator.
Fortunately for Freeman and the Braves, he's found his level in a hurry. Early in the series, he looked uncharacteristically late on fastballs, which in turn threw off his timing on offspeed stuff. Whether getting a travel day helped him reset or whether he focused on getting his stride foot down in better rhythm (or both), he's now raking like vintage Freeman. As a partial consequence, the Braves may be closing in on a pennant.