680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Yesterday, when the Braves announced their lineup for the series finale in Miami, most fans were probably thinking there was a typo. Freddie Freeman, typically the number three hitter for this offense was moved up a spot in the order to the two hole. For Freeman, it marked the first time we hadn’t seen him start in the third spot in the order since April 28, 2016. In addition, it was just his second career start in the second spot in the order, the other coming on April 6, 2011 in Milwaukee when future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones occupied that spot in the batting order. In addition, Marcell Ozuna was moved from cleanup to third, while Nick Markakis found himself behind Ozuna in the fourth spot. In years past, this move might not have been as desirable, but with the addition of the universal DH, don’t be surprised to see Freeman hit second more frequently.
Having your best hitter in the second spot is nothing new. Around baseball, guys like Aaron Judge, Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, just to name a few have found themselves occupying that spot in their respective batting orders. And over the course of a 162 game season, it can equate to 25-30 extra at bats for your best hitter. That might not seem like a lot, until that spot comes up in clutch situations during games. Believe me, getting those extra opportunities for your most potent weapons will end up being more important than it appears on the surface.
And when it comes to the cleanup spot, Nick Markakis is no stranger to that position in the order. While he doesn’t bring the power you expect from a cleanup man, he brings the steady, consistent approach that makes him a great candidate to fill that role for the time being. He puts the ball in play, works counts and doesn’t strike out. That’s a recipe for success in the heart of your batting order. And yesterday, while fans might not have been happy when the lineup came out, Markakis drove in three, including a pair in a three run seventh, giving him 503 career doubles. That ties him for 61st most all-time with Hall of Famer Andre Dawson. Last year, he also recorded his 1,000th career RBI, which was another tremendous milestone. Until Acuna and Albies return, it won’t shock me at all to see more of the lineup we saw yesterday in the finale in Miami. Hey, if it ain’t broke…well…you know what they say!
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.