ATLANTA (AP) — Freddie Freeman hit a two-run homer to lead off the 11th inning and the Atlanta Braves beat the Boston Red Sox 8-7 on Friday night to clinch the No. 2 seed in the National League playoffs.
Freeman’s homer off Jeffrey Springs (0-2) drove in Ender Inciarte, who started the inning on second base, and bolstered the Braves slugger’s case for the NL MVP Award.
“He absolutely should,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said about Freeman winning MVP. “The guy is having an unbelievable year. … He checks all the boxes.”
Snitker said Marcell Ozuna, who had three hits and drove in two runs, also deserves consideration.
Freeman was given a rare day off from starting before walking as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. He said he was looking for a fastball from Springs in the 11th and was ready when it came. After a rain-delayed game against Miami on Thursday night, Freeman prevented the Braves from playing deep into another evening.
“I was just trying to send everyone home,” Freeman said.
The Red Sox are 0-4 against Atlanta this season, including a three-game sweep in Boston.
“They battled great,” Red Sox manager Roenicke said. “Get behind, they come back, kept doing it, so offense, I thought we did a great job. We just didn’t pitch as well in the late innings when we got the lead. Everything else I thought was good. It’s a shame to lose a game.”
Alex Verdugo’s sacrifice fly off Shane Greene (1-0) drove in Rafael Devers in the top of the 11th, giving Boston a 7-6 lead.
Kevin Plawecki had three hits, including a tiebreaking single in Boston’s two-run 10th. The Braves answered with two runs off Springs, including Dansby Swanson’s two-out, run-scoring double to right field that tied it.
Ronald Acuña Jr. hit the longest homer in the majors this season — 495 feet to the top of the left-field seats — to lead off the game. It was the longest homer at Truist Park, which opened in 2017. Acuña admired his blast before flipping his bat and starting his run around the bases.
After Ozuna’s bases-loaded single in the eighth drove in two runs to give Atlanta a 4-2 lead, the Red Sox pulled even. Two runs scored when Adeiny Hechavarria fielded Rafael Devers’ bases-loaded grounder off Mark Melancon, slipped and threw the ball into the Braves dugout for an error. It was Hechavarria’s third error in two games.
Devers’ pinch-hit, bases-loaded groundout in the seventh gave Boston a 2-1 lead.
Kyle Wright gave up two hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings in his final warmup for his spot in Atlanta’s postseason rotation. Wright issued three consecutive walks in the seventh before Devers’ pinch-hit groundout drove in Jackie Bradley Jr. from third base.
Wright retired the first 12 batters he faced. Bradley homered leading off the fifth, a 447-foot blast to center that tied the game.
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Freeman watched the start of the game from the stands and was impressed by Acuña’s homer. He said it’s the longest homer he has seen. Freeman said his first thought was, “Did that almost clear the whole stands?”
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodríguez, who has been restricted from baseball activities since July 23 after coronavirus follow-up tests showed he has myocarditis, a heart issue, has been cleared to begin physical activity. Roenicke says Rodríguez can start walking on a treadmill soon with hopes he can begin building up for the 2021 season. Rodríguez tested positive for the coronavirus before the start of summer camp. … RHP Domingo Tapia was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right biceps contusion, ending his season. He was hit in the arm by a line drive in Thursday night’s game against Baltimore. RHP Austin Brice (strained lat) was activated from the 10-day IL.
Braves: Austin Riley started at first base after missing two days to rest a quadriceps injury.
Red Sox: Rookie RHP Tanner Houck (2-0, 0.00), who takes the mound Saturday night, has allowed three hits and no earned runs over 11 innings in his first two starts.
Braves: LHP Tucker Davidson was recalled from the team’s alternate training site after the game and will make his major league debut. Huascar Ynoa was optioned to clear a spot for Davidson, who was 7-6 with a 2.03 ERA at Double-A Mississippi in 2019.