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Freeman's huge night helps Braves beat Twins in slugfest, 9-7

The Braves let a 7-0 lead nearly evaporate, but Freddie Freeman's huge night picked up the pitching staff to deliver a two-game sweep of the Twins.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Braves and Twins combined for just 12 hits and 2 runs as the Braves won a shutout. Tonight was anything but more of the same, as the two clubs tallied 29 hits and 18 runs in a marathon slugfest. Luckily for the Braves, however, they were able to prevail, thanks in large part to a huge, huge night from their best hitter, Freddie Freeman.

The way the game started actually suggested a laugher or rout moreso than a close-knit affair. Before the Twins even came to bat, the Braves batted around and scored four runs off of Tyler Duffey. The first three Braves all reached base, with Jace Peterson drawing a leadoff walk, Gordon Beckham hitting a deep fly ball into the left field gap for an RBI double, and then Freddie Freeman bringing him home with a line drive to right. After Nick Markakis hit into a double play, the Braves followed up with an Adonis Garcia double and Jeff Francoeur homer to dead center. The Braves actually got two more hits in the frame, thanks to Ender Inciarte's single and AJ Pierzynski's double, but Erick Aybar grounded out to end the threat.

Duffey's start only went from bad to worse in the second, as Freddie Freeman collected his second RBI hit in as many innings, scoring Jace Peterson after he doubled to lead off the frame. That got Duffey pulled from the contest, and actually gave him two consecutive career-worst starts in a row (his prior start was his worst to date, and this one was even more dreadful). Duffey ended his line having allowed eight hits and a walk while recording just four outs.

The Twins called on Michael "Gulf of" Tonkin from their bullpen, who struck out Nick Markakis and Adonis Garcia to keep the Braves to a five-run lead. Tonkin then kept the Braves off the board until the fourth, when he surrendered a one-out walk to Gordon Beckham and then threw a 2-0 pitch into Freddie Freeman's down-and-in happy zone, which was promptly hit out over the center field fence for a two-run shot to push the Atlanta lead to seven runs.

Mike Foltynewicz had been cruising up until the bottom of the fourth, having allowed just a few hits and, more importantly, no walks. While he did what he was supposed to do with a large advantage, which is throw strikes, the Twins ambushed him a bit, touching him for three runs on two doubles and a Kurt Suzuki two-run homer.

Things got even dicier in the middle innings. In the fifth, Foltynewicz allowed a single and a double to start the inning, and then Miguel Sano hit an infield bouncer that beat the shift and drove in two; Foltynewicz reacted with visible aggravation but buckled down to keep it a 7-5 game.

Beckham and Freeman combined to push another run across for the Braves in the sixth via back-to-back doubles. Unfortunately, Folty's unraveling continued, as three singles got him pulled from the game. Then, an RBI groundout surrendered by Ian Krol trimmed the lead to one run. Foltynewicz finished with exactly 100 pitches, allowing seven runs (six earned) in five and a third innings. He struck out only three Twins, but didn't walk anyone, as well he shouldn't have when pitching with a large (but ever-dwindling) lead.

The Braves bullpen then did solid work. Mauricio Cabrera struck out Miguel Sano  on three pitches with the tying run on third to end the sixth, and then pitched a scoreless seventh. The eighth saw three singles around a Freddie Freeman intentional walk (I guess the Twins learned their lesson for the night) score a ninth run for the Braves, and then things got very interesting in the bottom of the inning with Chris Withrow on the hill. Adonis Garcia ole'd (misplayed) a Kurt Suzuki grounder to put the leadoff man on, and then Withrow put the tying run on base with a walk. The next batter hit a bunt that Freeman made a great play on to retire the lead runner at third, and Withrow bounced back to get the next two batters, including another three-pitch strikeout of Miguel Sano, who snapped his bat over his knee in understandable frustration.

Jim Johnson notched a save with an uneventful ninth, striking out two in the process.

Every Atlanta hitter had at least one hit in the contest, and five hitters had two or more hits. Freddie Freeman was of course the standout, going 4-for-4 with a walk and five RBI (including his two-run homer). He also stole a base, which is amazingly his fourth swipe of the season.

The Braves head back home after a pretty poor (3-6) road trip to take on the Phillies tomorrow night - it'll be Matt Wisler dueling Aaron Nola in the series opener.

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