One day after ending an eight-game losing streak, the Braves claimed a therapeutic series victory over the Cardinals. This marked the first time they won consecutive games since May 18 and they are just two games back of the first-place Nationals in the National League East.
The Braves were one game back before getting swept by the Nationals last weekend in Atlanta. The two teams will meet again this weekend in Washington, starting a three-game series Friday.
"We went through a stretch," Freeman said. "Everybody's going to go through a stretch like that during the season, hopefully that was our longest one. We bounced back as a team, like a winning team does."
As Atlanta totaled 20 runs during an eight-game skid that was snapped on Tuesday night, the club was hurt by the absences of Chipper Jones, McCann and Freeman. The Braves suddenly went from being a potent lineup to a slumbering one.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they were not able to skip out of town before Freeman received the prescription sports glasses that should allow him to overcome the dry-eye vision problems he's endured for the past three weeks.
Hours after receiving the glasses and returning to the starting lineup for the first time since Friday, Freeman enjoyed a three-hit performance that included a solo home run in the three-run first inning off Kyle Lohse. Two innings later, the 22-year-old first baseman found some fortune with a bloop RBI double that fell between Matt Holliday and Rafael Furcal in shallow left field.
"He swung the bat just like before the eye issue, so that's nice to see," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Just right in time because today was an offensive day."
Playing his third game since overcoming the flu bug that bothered him for nearly a full week, McCann opened the scoring with a two-run first-inning home run. He then capped his four-RBI performance with a two-run sixth-inning single off Marc Rzepczynski. The single snuck through a big hole on the infield's left side as the Cardinals utilized a defensive shift.
The decisive three-run sixth began with Constanza capping a three-hit performance with his third single. This put him in position to score when Jack Wilson capped an eight-pitch at-bat against Rzepczynski with a go-ahead opposite-field double.
Constanza has made two consecutive starts in left field since being promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett. He has spent his first two days back providing reminders of the spark he provided for three weeks before injuring his ankle late last August.
"He brings energy," Gonzalez said.
Fortunately, Constanza helped bring offense on a night when the Braves needed it. Tim Hudson was cruising before allowing the Cards to tie the game with a four-run sixth. Then after the Braves regained a three-run advantage, Eric O'Flaherty surrendered a pair of runs in a two-run eighth that included a Dan Uggla error and some unfortunate bounces.
But the Braves quickly regained a three-run lead by scoring two more runs in the eighth. Freeman capped the inning with an RBI single for his fourth three-hit game of the season.
"I wasn't really worried about the glasses; I knew they were looking good," Freeman said. "I did a lot of work before the game to make sure I was able to stay with the ball to left-center and I was just happy with the swing."
All seemed right with Hudson, who surrendered two hits and needed just 50 pitches to complete the first five innings with a 5-1 lead. But things suddenly went wrong for the veteran right-hander when he allowed singles to three of the first four batters he faced in the sixth.
Hudson, who has allowed at least five earned runs in three of his seven starts, exited after allowing the Cards to cut their deficit to one run with Tyler Greene's two-run single. Daniel Descalso then greeted Jonny Venters with a game-tying single.
"I'm just glad we won," Hudson said. "That's the main thing. All of the personal things aside, it was a big win for us. I'm not happy with my outcome personally. But the bottom line is we won the ballgame and that is all that matters."