Chasing .500, Braves host Brewers

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves got some encouraging news from All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman, who said Friday that his recovery from a fractured left wrist is going better than expected. The slugger indicated his realistic goal is to return before the All-Star Game.

Freeman was batting .341 with 14 homers and 25 RBIs in 37 games when he was hit by Toronto’s Aaron Loup on April 17 and placed on the disabled list.

Freeman plans to accompany the team when it leaves for the West Coast after Sunday’s game and return for a short rehab assignment. His goal is to be back in the lineup for the series in Washington, July 6-9.

“My mindset is to fly back hopefully with the team Sunday, if not before, and then go out and try to meet the team in Washington, because those are a big four games. I want to be back for that,” Freeman said.

The news about Freeman seemed to overshadow the impending second game of the weekend series between Atlanta and the Milwaukee Brewers. Atlanta, which beat Milwaukee 5-4 in the first game of the series, has won six of its last seven and 11 of 17. The Braves (35-38) haven’t been within three games of .500 since May 23.

Saturday’s pitching matchup features Atlanta knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (5-5, 4.91) against Milwaukee’s Matt Garza (3-3, 4.42).

Dickey has looked good in two of his last three starts. He worked seven scoreless innings against San Francisco on June 19 and allowed one run in seven innings on June 8 against the Phillies. In between he was pounded by Washington for eight runs in five innings.

Dickey will be making his fifth start against the Brewers. He is 2-1 with a 3.64 ERA against Milwaukee in his career. Dickey did not face the Brewers when the Braves played them in early April.

Garza will make his 11th start of the season and second against the Braves. He beat Atlanta 4-3 on April 30 at Miller Park, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing three runs on six hits, with seven strikeouts. Garza has made eight career starts against the Braves and compiled a record of 2-4 with a 4.56 ERA.

Garza will be trying to rebound from a below-average start. He gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings in a game the Brewers lost 8-1 to the Pirates on June 19.

“I thought Matt pitched well,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said after the game. “They hit a bunch of ground balls through the holes.”

Garza said: “We shifted right, they hit the ball left. We shifted left, they hit the ball right. It was just ground ball after ground ball.”

Once Freeman returns, the question remains what the Braves will do with him. Freeman has requested he be given a chance to play third base, even though he has no major-league experience there, so Atlanta can keep slugger Matt Adams in the lineup at first base.

Adams has defensive limitations and cannot play the outfield. Freeman made the suggestion to club officials about making the move and began taking ground balls at third base this week.