5/26/2013 9:00 P.M. ET
Varvaro showing Braves he can be counted on
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- With Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters sidelined for the remainder of this season, the Braves are looking for some of their less-experienced relievers to prove they have the talent and mental resolve to handle crucial late-inning situations.
After allowing a pair of runs amid the torrential downpour that soaked Citi Field as the Mets produced a game-tying eighth-inning rally on Friday night, Anthony Varvaro returned to the mound when the suspended game resumed on Saturday. While tossing a perfect ninth inning under a sunny sky, he gave the Braves a chance to claim a 10-inning victory and also enhanced the coaching staff's confidence in his abilities.
"He's got good stuff," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Last year when he came up, we didn't want to put him in the game because of the inconsistencies, walks and all that kind of stuff. But now you learn that you are comfortable with him, so you put him in situations."
Varvaro had surrendered a run in just three of his previous 17 appearances before being subjected to Friday's nearly unplayable conditions.
"[Catcher Brian McCann] came out and said, 'I'm struggling to get the ball back to you, so let's just do everything we can just to get it over the plate.'" Varvaro said. "I [said], 'Realistically, I can only throw a straight ball right now and I don't know if it's going in the dirt. I'm just trying to get the ball to you over some white part of the plate.'
"I don't want to say I had a little bit of a disadvantage. But if the conditions were a little bit better, maybe the outcome would have been as it was yesterday. But ultimately, [Saturday's] inning was just as important as the night before. So my goal was just to go out there and put up a zero. Thankfully, I did."
Freeman thriving with runners in scoring position
NEW YORK -- Jason Heyward has repeatedly said Freddie Freeman has been an "RBI hog" since the two began their professional careers together in 2007. Through this season's first two months, Freeman has simply legitimized this description.
"I don't know what the deal is when there is a guy in scoring position, I don't know if I concentrate harder or what the deal is," Freeman said. "But I want to get those guys in."
Freeman's power potential has provided him the opportunity to maximize run-producing opportunities in the manner he did with his two-run home run in the first inning of Friday's series opener against the Mets. But the Braves' first baseman has also shown the ability to simply make things happen like he did with the check-swing that produced the walk-off single in Tuesday's win over the Twins.
Despite missing two weeks in April with a strained oblique muscle, Freeman entered Sunday with a team-high 30 RBIs. This has been a product of the Major League-best .486 (17-for-35) batting average he had produced with runners in scoring position.
"I believe there are guys out there that when there are [run-producing situations], they get it done," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think [Miguel] Cabrera is one. I think Manny Ramirez in his heyday was one. Carlos Lee was one of those guys. For whatever reason, they step up their game. ... [Freeman] is a contact guy, which I believe you have to be to be that guy."
On the way to striking out 129 times during last year's injury-plagued season, Freeman struck out once every 4.81 plate appearance. He has improved to once every 5.59 plate appearances this season.
Through his first 35 games this year, Freeman has struck out once every 6.50 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. On the way to notching a career-high 94 RBIs last year, he struck out once every 5.68 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.
• Gonzalez said he is still planning to use McCann and Evan Gattis as his designated hitters during the next two games in Toronto. Gattis will likely serve as the DH while McCann handles the catching duties on Monday. The two would then flip-flop roles in Tuesday afternoon's game.
• The Braves captured their 30th victory while playing their 48th game of the season on Saturday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the seventh-fewest games needed for the club needed to reach 30 wins since moving to Atlanta in 1966. The 1998 Braves set the Atlanta record by reaching this mark in 41 games.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.