ATLANTA -- Given that he missed a quarter of the season, it might seem outlandish to think Freddie Freeman could still end up being considered a legitimate Most Valuable Player candidate. But there's at least reason to wonder when one accounts for the monstrous numbers he produced before breaking his wrist and the similar production he has provided the Braves since ending his seven-week absence from the Braves' lineup.
"What he's doing is not a shock to me and that's what is so incredible, that it's not a shock," Braves veteran pitcher R.A. Dickey said. "It would be with 99.5 percent of every other player in the big leagues. But when you can say what he is doing does not surprise you, that is the ultimate compliment."
A few hours after he said he and his teammates were aiming for something greater than to end the season with a .500 record, Freeman got the second half started auspiciously as he homered and capped his latest multi-hit performance with a decisive single in the eighth inning of Friday night's 4-3 win over the D-backs at SunTrust Park.
"He is special and we all know that," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He is the guy that comes in and keeps doing it and has been all year. We are fortunate that we have him back."
Since returning from his long absence on July 4, Freeman has hit .400 (12-for-30), belted three home runs and constructed a 1.238 OPS. When his left wrist was fractured by a pitch during a May 17 game against the Blue Jays, he was hitting .341 with a Major League-best 14 homers and a 1.209 OPS. He essentially picked up where he left off, just like his good friend Chipper Jones often did when he returned from long stints on the disabled list.
"I watched Chipper come off the DL and come out of the clubhouse to hit a three-run homer and go back in," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He was a special guy, too, and some are chosen."
It's far too early to place Freeman in the same category as Jones, who will likely receive his call to Cooperstown next year. But as the 27-year-old has batted .323 with 43 home runs and a 1.066 OPS over his past 162 games, he has certainly legitimized his spot among the game's current elite.
"I am long way from coming into the same category as [Jones]," Freeman said. "I am just trying to get the big hits."
Freeman provided the Braves with a brief lead Friday when he drilled a sixth-inning solo homer off Archie Bradley. He is homering every 9.71 at-bats. Yankees rookie phenom Aaron Judge entered the day leading all qualified Major Leaguers with a 10.03 AB/HR ratio.
After the D-backs gained an eighth-inning lead, they opted to pitch to Freeman with first base open and no outs in the bottom half of the frame. The stoic slugger responded by delivering his game-deciding opposite-field single through the unmanned left side of a shifted infield.
The ball sailed like many of the line drives he has focused on hitting to the left side of the infield since making a batting practice adjustment approximately two months into last season.
"I feel like it is all in my approach," Freeman said. "All I am trying to do is hit a line drive at the shortstop as it keeps me inside of pitches, up the middle and keeps my bat in the zone longer. ... All I am trying to do is see it and hit it. It is working for me right now."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.