CHICAGO -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez knows Freddie Freeman has been one of his club's most consistent offensive threats over the past two months. At the same time, he understands the value of getting Eric Hinske some regular at-bats with the hope that it will enhance the great value he provides as a pinch-hitter.
Thus Gonzalez opted to rest Freeman during Tuesday night's game against the Cubs and give Hinske a start at first base. It was the veteran utility man's third start this month and his first since Aug. 10.
"We need to keep him fresh," Gonzalez said of Hinske, who has batted .179 (7-for-39) with two homers and 17 strikeouts as a pinch-hitter this year.
While batting .298 (14-for-47) as a pinch-hitter last year, Hinske benefited from more regular at-bats. Through the Braves' first 129 games last year, he had totaled 290 plate appearances and 253 at-bats. At this same point this year, he had totaled 233 plate appearances and 209 at-bats.
One of the primary reasons Hinske has drawn fewer opportunities this year is the fact that Freeman has made it difficult for the Braves to keep him out of the lineup. The 21-year-old first baseman has hit .293 with 18 homers, which ties him with Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa for the most among National League rookies.
Freeman has batted .321 with an .884 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) over his past 86 games and .335 with a .930 OPS over his past 44 games.
"Freddie is a stud," Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. "The numbers that this guy is going to put up -- power, hits, RBIs, runs scored, any way you want to look at it -- he's going to do some special things. You watch this kid every day, not even mentioning his defense, he's going to be one of the best in this game."