Freeman excited for Kemp to join him in lineup

Duo will likely hit in No. 3 and 4 spots in Braves batting order

Freeman excited for Kemp to join him in lineup

ATLANTA -- When Freddie Freeman first saw Matt Kemp in the Braves clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon, he hugged his new teammate and immediately mentioned how much he was looking forward to once again being paired with an established slugger who could provide the protection he has lacked since the start of last season.

If everything goes the way the Braves want, Freeman and Kemp will enjoy many productive nights together over the remainder of this season and each of the three that will follow. But their first night together proved to be unceremonious as they both went hitless and squandered a few scoring opportunities in Tuesday night's 5-3 loss to the Pirates at Turner Field.

"He's a guy who can change a game with one swing," Freeman said of Kemp. "He has that capability. Every time he comes up to the plate, you've got to pitch him carefully. He's a tough out, and he can change the game with one swing. That's a big part we need in our lineup. Having him in the middle of our lineup will be huge."

When the Braves acquired Kemp from the Padres in exchange for Hector Olivera on Saturday night, they regarded this as the first of the many significant acquisitions they hope to make in order become competitive again next year. Freeman was simply happy to see the rebuild begin moving away from that stage where he had to routinely say goodbye to established teammates and friends.

"The last couple of years, [players] have been leaving," Freeman said. "To get [Kemp] this year, you can definitely see everything is starting to come together. It's going to be a good end to this season and hopefully going into 2017, there will be more excitement around this team, and hopefully we can get back to our winning ways."

During his Braves debut, Kemp went hitless in four at-bats and drew a key two-out walk ahead of Nick Markakis' RBI single in the fifth inning. The newly-acquired outfielder struck out to end the seventh inning with two runners in scoring position and then capped his debut by striking out again to end the game.

Feliz fans Kemp to end the 7th

Unfortunately, Kemp's presence also did not provide an immediate impact on Freeman, who struck out three times while going hitless in three at-bats. But there are going to be nights like this for these two sluggers who have produced similar strikeout ratios over the past two seasons.

Entering Tuesday night, Freeman and Kemp had both struck out once every 4.37 plate appearances since the start of 2015. Kemp had also homered once every 21.85 at-bats, while Freeman had done so once every 22.53 at-bats.

For the first time since Justin Upton was around two years ago, Freeman once again has the luxury of hitting in front of a legit home run threat. Now he can only hope to take advantage of the benefit and prove that he and Kemp can indeed prove to be the productive duo the Braves need to accelerate their rebuild.

"I've had a smile on my face for two days now," Freeman said. "It's been great. To have the front office make a trade to bring in a guy like that, you're starting to see everything come together. We built up the prospects, and now the front office is bringing in guys that can help the Major League team now."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.