Braves try to continue reign over Nationals (Jul 07, 2017)

BY AP • July 7, 2017

WASHINGTON -- Freddie Freeman ran through the Atlanta Braves' clubhouse before the Thursday night game and shouted in the direction of Matt Adams, his new teammate.

"I have to go learn to play first again," Freeman shouted.

"Please do," Adams said with a grin.

Freeman came off the disabled list and started Tuesday and Wednesday at third base, making room for the bat of Adams at first base. However, with lefty Gio Gonzalez on the mound for Washington, Freeman was back at his familiar spot at first base Thursday as lefty-swinging Adams got the night off before getting a pinch hit.

The start of the game was delayed by more than three hours because of the threat of inclement weather that never came.

The delay did not faze Freeman, who got two hits to reach 1,000 in his career as the Braves beat the first-place Nationals 5-2.

"I still want him to hit," Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Freeman. "I think he looks fine (at third)."

The Nationals are slated to start Max Scherzer (10-5, 1.94 ERA) in the second contest of the four-game series Friday against R.A. Dickey (6-5, 4.44), another veteran right-hander. Scherzer is 6-4 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) in his career against the Braves, while Dickey is 4-9 with a 4.36 ERA in 19 games (17 starts) against the Nationals.

After giving up eight runs in five innings at Washington on June 13, Dickey has allowed two runs in his past three starts. He has permitted just 14 hits over 20 innings.

"He has been really good," Snitker said of Dickey. "He is in a good rhythm."

Several Washington batters have hit very well against Dickey.

Daniel Murphy is 4-for-6 with two homers, Ryan Raburn is 6-for-11 and Ryan Zimmerman is 14-for-39 (.359). Bryce Harper is only 6-for-25 (.240).

The Nationals lead the National League in team hitting at .278 and team slugging at .472.

"You know you are going to be in for a real battle," Dickey said of facing Washington. "They got the better of me last time."

How would Dickey evaluate his first half?

"Better than average," he said Thursday. "I expect more out of myself. I have kept us in nearly every game I have pitched."

Freeman injured his wrist in May and went on the DL. The Braves (41-43) ultimately acquired Adams from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Soon after Freeman got hurt, he targeted a return before the series here in Washington.

"They are in first place. It's a big series," Freeman said. "They lost a couple of guys, too, (to injuries)."

That includes shortstop Trea Turner, who injured his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch on June 29. Turner is slated to be out several weeks, and the Nationals pointed to the injury to Freeman as a possible gauge to how long Turner will be sidelined.

In his stead, Wilmer Difo started at shortstop on Thursday. He went 2-for-2 with a walk and sacrifice fly. Difo also started Tuesday and had two hits and scored three runs in a win against the New York Mets. Washington and New York had their scheduled game rained out on Wednesday.

Now the Nationals will have to contend with Freeman, who is a career .331 hitter against Washington (50-35).

What does Nationals manager Dusty Baker think of the move of Freeman to third?

"I don't concern myself with what other people do too much," Baker said.

Baker said he was surprised the Cardinals "gave away" Adams in the May 20 trade.

"He can hit," Baker said.

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