MIAMI – Freddie Freeman hit for the cycle for the second time and the surging Atlanta Braves beat the Miami Marlins 11-9 Wednesday night.
The reigning NL MVP doubled in the first, tripled in the fourth, singled in the fifth and hit his 27th homer, a two-run blast, in the sixth.
Freeman became the first Braves player to hit for the cycle twice after also accomplishing the feat against Cincinnati June 15, 2016, according to Atlanta. It is the seventh cycle in franchise history. He went 9 for 13 in the three-game series sweep against Miami.
“To get four hits in a game is just amazing in itself,” Freeman said. “These are the nights that everything comes together. It’s one of those memories that I’ll be able to tell grandkids and hopefully great grandkids that I was able to do something — that’s very, very rare — multiple times. It makes me speechless.”
Winning pitcher Charlie Morton kept the Marlins hitless until Isan Díaz’s one-out single to center in the fifth and worked six innings of two-run ball. Morton (12-4) allowed three hits, struck out nine, walked one and hit a batter.
The NL East-leading Braves have won six straight and 13 of 15 while sweeping their last three road series.
“The guys are doing really well in the clubhouse,” Morton said “There is good energy in there, good vibes. I think we’re getting very close to being exactly where we wanted to be.”
Austin Riley had three hits and two RBIs, and Adam Duvall drove in three runs, including two on bases-loaded walks, for the Braves.
“It was another good offensive performance,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s just being patient and not expanding the strike zone. If you don’t chase, you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting a good pitch and that’s a great trade in a team if they’re not chasing a lot.”
Miami walked 12 batters, tying a franchise record for a nine-inning game. Five of the walks were with the bases loaded.
“You walk that many people it’s really hard for a guy to stand out there on defense that long, have those type of innings and think you’re going to pop back in the dugout and have great at-bats,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s a tough game to watch tonight.”
Freeman’s triple began a four-run fourth against Miami starter Jesús Luzardo. Riley hit an RBI single and Dansby Swanson followed with a single. Luzardo then walked three consecutive batters, including Duvall and Guillermo Heredia with the bases loaded, to force in two runs. Ozzie Abies’ sacrifice fly off Miami reliever Steven Okert made it 4-0.
Duvall’s RBI double in the fifth increased Atlanta’s lead.
Freeman’s blast against Marlins reliever Luis Madero in the sixth landed over the wall in center. As Freeman rounded the bases and reached the dugout, Braves fans in the stands repeatedly chanted his name.
“I knew it, everyone knew it that I needed the home run there,” Freeman said. “To be able to do it on the fourth consecutive it was pretty cool.”
In his fifth plate appearance in the eighth, Freeman was intentionally walked with a runner at third. Riley followed with his second run-scoring single. Miami catcher Sandy León pitched the ninth and retired Freeman on a fly to left field.
“It’s the hardest at-bat behind being a pinch-hitter,” Freeman said of facing a position player. “It’s a lose-lose. If you get out, you’re ‘How could you get out?’ If you hit a home run, you’re supposed to hit a home run. At least I hit it square. I just hit too high.”
The Braves built an 11-3 lead before the Marlins rallied with six runs in the bottom of the ninth, keyed by Jesús Aguilar’s two-run single and Jesús Sánchez’s two-run homer. Miami had the tying runs on base and two outs but Will Smith struck out struck out Alex Jackson to end it.
“Happy that the guys kept having at-bats, and kept having at-bats and you go back to the old it’s never over ’til it’s over,” Mattingly said. “Next thing you know we have the winning run on the plate, which was awesome.”
The Marlins ended a drought of 20 scoreless innings against Braves pitching in the bottom of the fifth. Pinch-hitter Jorge Alfaro had an RBI fielder’s choice with the bases loaded and Miguel Rojas hit a run-scoring single.
Atlanta had shut down Miami since Diaz’s second inning solo home run in the first game of the series Monday.
Luzardo (4-6) was lifted after three-plus innings. The left-hander allowed four hits and four runs, struck out four and walked five.
MAY SLUMP NOW A DISTANT MEMORY
After a season starting slump, Freeman again is in familiar offensive territory. The cycle increased his average to .301. For Freeman, the current numbers are a far cry from a season low .195 average on May 7.
“You know me, I like the three at the start of the batting average,” Freeman said. “Obviously, I didn’t get off to the start I wanted this year but luckily it wasn’t a 60-game season. It’s a beautiful thing about this game. You trust your approach. You trust yourself. I feel for about two or three months I’ve been doing pretty well so I have six weeks to close this out. So I have to keep going.”
Recently acquired Bryan De La Cruz played his third outfield position and went 2-for-3 Wednesday. De La Cruz, whom the Marlins obtained in a trade from the Houston Astros on July 30, started in right-field in his first two weeks with the club before playing left field on Monday and Tuesday.
“You want to give the organization the opportunity to make decisions,” Mattingly said. “You want to see him in different places. We’re trying to build a roster with versatility, guys that can play different spots and do different things. That’s why those decisions are important for people that know what everybody can do.”
Braves: RHP Ian Anderson (right shoulder inflammation) threw 70 pitches in his third rehab start at Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday and manager Brian Snitker called it his best one so far.
Braves: LHP Max Fried (10-7, 3.78) will start the opener of a three-game series at Baltimore Friday.
Marlins: No starter has been announced for the opener of a four-game series at Cincinnati on Thursday.
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