The next stop on this trip is the one Freddie Freeman has been waiting for the most.
On Friday, he will return to Atlanta for the first time since he left the Braves to sign with the Dodgers this offseason.
It is sure to be an emotional homecoming, one complete with a World Series ring presentation and likely plenty of tears from the star first baseman.
And it’s been a moment that, try as he might, has been on his mind for weeks.
“You’re probably gonna see me cry quite a bit on that Friday,” Freeman said last week, looking ahead to the reunion with his former team. “I can’t wait to go back, but I’m almost looking forward to it being over, so I can just try and concentrate on baseball.”
In the meantime, however, Freeman certainly hasn’t seemed to have any problem staying in the moment.
Instead, after slumping through the first two weeks of June, the slugger has quickly reemerged as one of the Dodgers hottest hitters, following up a five-RBI outburst on Tuesday with two hits, including a go-ahead home run, on Wednesday in the team’s 8-4 win against the Cincinnati Reds.
“Obviously I know what’s going on this weekend,” he said postgame. “But that doesn’t really affect what’s going on today.”
After the Dodgers trailed by three early, Freeman helped lead the comeback.
He was hit by a pitch in the third inning, moving Trea Turner to second base.
Turner scored the Dodgers’ first run in the next at-bat, using his trademark slide to safely evade a tag at the plate on Will Smith’s RBI single.
Freeman was part of a go-ahead three-run rally in the fifth, getting an RBI single with one out before scoring the tying run later in the inning on a bases-loaded hit by pitch from Reds starter Luis Castillo.
Justin Turner followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Dodgers (42-25) their first lead.
The Reds (23-45) tied it in the next half-inning, when Dodgers starter Tyler Anderson gave up a solo home run to Albert Almora Jr. but escaped a jam later in the inning when Chris Taylor threw out Jonathan India at home on a potential sacrifice fly.
“Oh man, that was awesome,” said Anderson, who gave up four runs — three earned — in five innings. “He got behind it. I mean, it’s just textbook. He’s a very textbook player and that was a very textbook play.”
It set the stage for Freeman’s go-ahead blast in the seventh, a line-drive homer that left the bat at 108.5 mph and cleared the wall in right to break a 4-4 tie.
It gave Freeman 42 RBIs on the season, second-most on the team behind Trea Turner, who has 50 RBIs.
It gave him his third multi-hit game out of the last four, a stretch in which he has gone nine for 17 to get his batting average back over .300 for the first time since May.
And it was Freeman’s third blast in his last nine games, after he’d hit only four in his first 58 games this season.
“Just to keep pitchers honest that he can clear them out at times, I think it makes him a better hitter, a more dangerous hitter,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Freeman’s recent power surge, adding with a grin: “I don’t mind the pull-side homers.”
The Dodgers pulled away an inning later, when Trayce Thompson roped a two-run double to right-center — his first hit since being reacquired by the Dodgers in a trade with the Detroit Tigers this week — before scoring on a sacrifice fly from Trea Turner.
“It’s very encouraging,” Freeman said of the club’s second straight eight-run performance, something they’d done only once previously this season. “We got timely hits. We worked wonderful ABs it seemed like all night.
“We took the sac flies when we needed to, took walks when we needed to. That’s really all you can ask for.”
Anderson throws two-hitter after all
Anderson was charged with his first hit Wednesday long before he took the mound at Great American Ball Park.
Earlier that morning, MLB made a notable scoring change to his previous outing last week — ruling his throwing error in the seventh inning of that game was actually a single for Angels infielder Jared Walsh.
In the moment, the error call was critical — keeping Anderson’s no-hit bid alive until he eventually lost it with one out in the ninth.
However, in hindsight, the pitcher and Roberts joked they’d wished they’d known in real time, rather than have Anderson fall short of history after throwing a career-high 123 pitches.
“I could have thrown way less,” Anderson said with a smile.
When asked about the scoring change in Anaheim on Wednesday, Walsh said he had requested the league review through an MLB Player’s Assn. app — but only because Anderson hadn’t completed the no-hitter.
“There were a few people on the field, teammates, other people, who encouraged me to do it, saying ‘Hey, that’s a pretty tough play for a left-handed pitcher, gotta pick it up, spin 180 and throw a strike,’” Walsh said.
“If that breaks up no-hitter, I wouldn’t have appealed it. In the game, the official scorer ruled it an error quickly. I was fine with that. I hit the ball 20 mph for about three feet. Had he still had the no-hitter, I wouldn’t have fought it.”
Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.
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