Freddie Freeman’s 5 RBIs lead Dodgers to victory over Reds

CINCINNATI — Freddie Freeman is getting ready for his close-up.

With his return to Atlanta looming just days away, Freeman drove in five runs and reached base four times, pushing the Dodgers to an 8-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.

Freeman is 15 for his past 39 (.385) with Tuesday’s three-hit game his third in his past 10. More importantly for the Dodgers’ offensive issues of late, he is 22 for 60 (.367) with runners in scoring position this season.

“Balls are falling,” Freeman said when asked to explain his recent surge. “There was no adjustment. It’s just baseball, I guess. Not doing anything different, just trying to hit the ball at the shortstop and balls are falling.”

They hadn’t been falling for the Dodgers as often in June. Arriving in Cincinnati, they had gone 7-9 this month while averaging just 3½ runs per game. They especially had not been falling with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers were 7 for 57 (.123) over their previous seven games.

“I mean, I don’t know. Obviously we want to play well, but we know it’s a long season,” said Trea Turner, who had four of the Dodgers’ 17 hits and scored twice Tuesday. “I don’t think we were putting too much emphasis on it inside here. I know I feel like we get interviewed about it every single day, but the numbers are still very good. We just haven’t been winning. If the numbers are the same and we’ve been winning, we probably wouldn’t talk about it that much. But sometimes we look for the bad even when we don’t have to.

“Like I keep saying, we know we’re good. It’s a matter of playing well. Every night’s not gonna be perfect. But tonight was a good one, a good start for this road trip.”

It took a while to feel that way. the Dodgers outhit the Reds 12-4 through the first seven innings but led just 4-2 at that point.

Ten of the Dodgers’ first 20 batters in the game had hits, including a long ball (a first-inning solo home run by Will Smith) and – gasp! – some small ball.

After Justin Turner doubled off the top of the left-field wall (missing a home run by inches) to start the fourth inning, Eddy Alvarez bunted him to third and Gavin Lux drove him in with a sacrifice fly.

“We’re going to slug. But those things right there win a lot of baseball games,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So that was probably my favorite sequence tonight.

“Getting a hit is hard at times. But to be able to move a runner and make productive outs, that goes a long way. And that, for me, should never have nights off.”

Freeman gave them the lead with a two-run double in the third inning. But he also took the steam out of that potentially big inning with his legs.

Normally a savvy baserunner, Freeman tried to advance from second to third when the throw home on his double bounced wide of home plate. He was thrown out at third for the first out of the inning (a call held up after a lengthy review).

“Obviously by the book, you don’t want to make the first out at third base,” Roberts said. “For them to make the throw home to relay and then throw it to third base to get him, nine times out of 10 he’ll be in there. I still think it was an aggressive play and I’ll take him being aggressive.”

When Smith followed with a single and Chris Taylor a two-out double (one of his two doubles in the game), Freeman’s decision grew more costly.

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The Reds responded only with solo home runs in each of the first two innings – one by Jonathan India and one by Albert Amora Jr.

It was the first time this season Gonsolin has given up multiple home runs in a game and only the fourth time in 13 starts he has given up as many as two runs. His league-leading ERA did go up – from 1.42 to 1.58, still the best in baseball.

After Amora’s home run, Gonsolin retired 10 of the next 11 batters he faced including the final nine. But Roberts pulled him after five innings (and 87 pitches), ending a stretch of six consecutive starts in which he pitched at least six innings (after never doing it in consecutive starts before in his career).

But the Dodgers finally broke the game open with four runs in the top of the eighth including three on a bases-loaded triple off the center-field wall by Freeman. Smith then drove him in with a sacrifice fly.

“I think those premier middle-of-the-order guys, their DNA is to really, really lock in with guys in scoring position,” Roberts said of Freeman. “Not to say he gives anything up when guys aren’t in scoring position or on base, but there’s just that extra layer of finding a way of putting the ball in play and those numbers don’t lie. He’s elite at that and has been his entire career.”

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