Freddie Freeman joked Tuesday that the Nationals Park crowd would be on his side when he went against Nationals hero Bryce Harper in the Home Run Derby.
But when Freeman stepped into the batter’s box for the first-round match, reality set in: The boo birds came out at Nationals Park.
That was normal, more like it. Freeman was happy with that.
“That means I’ve done well here,” Freeman said after losing 13-12.
Done well against the Nationals is an understatement.
In 125 career games against the Nationals, the Braves first baseman has hit .327 with a .400 on-base percentage, 18 home runs and 76 RBIs.
At Nationals Park, Freeman is averaging .320 for his career with a .405 on-base percentage, seven home runs and 35 RBIs.
“I can’t explain the success,” Freeman said. “I just like competing against the best.”
The Braves drafted Freeman in the second round of 2007. He made the majors in 2010 at 20. His career high for home runs is 36 in 2016.
Ever since he was a prospect, Freeman, a left-handed batter, has been good hitting the other way, something his dad drilled into his head at an early age.
In batting practice, he likes to hit line drives over the shortstop’s head instead of trying to pull every ball into the right field seats.
Batting practice home runs for Freeman are rare
“It’s been three years” since he’s hit one,” Freeman said.
Freeman had fun. As a kid, he watched Ken Griffey Jr., he of the backward cap, take part in the Derby.
“It’s something as a kid you dream about,” Freeman said.
Best piece of advice he received going into the competition? “Don’t swing and miss. I didn’t do that, so I won,” he said.
The scoreboard told a different story. He lost in the first round to Harper as the 43,698 hometown fans erupted.
The two embraced afterward.
“I said, ‘Congratulations,’ ” Freeman said. “I knew I wasn’t going to win.”