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Free passes prompt protective measure for Freeman

Free passes prompt protective measure for Freeman


ATLANTA -- When Freddie Freeman drew one of the three walks the Mets issued to him during the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader, Chipper Jones, who was seated behind the plate, looked at Freeman and playfully threw his right arm in the air. "He was like, 'They're not letting you play,'" Freeman said.

Until some other Braves begin having more success in run-producing opportunities, Freeman could receive that careful treatment. The Mets walked him in four of his final six plate appearances on Tuesday. Two of the walks were intentional and the other two appeared to be of the "unintentional intentional" variety.

"I'm up there to swing," said a smiling Freeman, who had walked in just three of his previous 99 plate appearances before the Mets essentially decided they were not going to allow him to beat them, like he had with his walk-off two-run homer in Monday night's 2-1 Braves win.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez's decision to move Freeman to the third spot in his batting order on Wednesday was influenced by the approach the Mets took on Tuesday. But Gonzalez said he spent the past couple weeks contemplating batting Freeman third and putting Justin Upton in the cleanup spot.

"Your best hitter is Freeman right now, and you'd like him to be hitting in the first inning and be swinging hard," Gonzalez said. "I think having Justin behind him gives him a little protection. Yesterday, it was blatant. But it's been prior to that -- you go back to the road trip when we were in San Diego, and [Freeman] was not getting pitches to hit."

Freeman entered Wednesday hitting .354 with five home runs and a .970 OPS in his previous 33 games. Meanwhile, Upton has hit .210 with three home runs and a .628 OPS since exiting April with 12 home runs and a 1.136 OPS.

Gonzalez could attempt to protect Freeman by moving Brian McCann to the cleanup spot. But he does not want to put the two left-handed hitters next to each other in the lineup.

Though Freeman's .448 batting average with runners in scoring position ranks third in the Majors, the Braves rank third to last in the Majors with their .226 average with RISP.

Atlanta's four highest paid players all entered Wednesday hitting below .200 with runners in scoring position: McCann (.179, 5-for-28); Justin Upton (.156, 7-for-45); Dan Uggla (.133, 6-for-45) and B.J. Upton (.102, 5-for-49).

The Braves went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners during Tuesday's nightcap. B.J. Upton was responsible for stranding six of those runners as he went hitless in three at-bats he recorded following the three two-out walks issued to Freeman.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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