There was a trace of sadness in Freddie Freeman’s voice, but also optimism.
“It’s an emotional time when the season ends, especially like this,” the Braves first baseman said Sunday night after his team’s 4-3 loss to the Dodgers in Game 7 of the NLCS. “But that group in that clubhouse, this is the start of something special.”
It’s a Braves team that lost significant starting rotation pieces during the season, including team ace Mike Soroka to a torn Achilles, but still came within three innings of reaching the World Series.
The Braves led 3-2 in the sixth inning when Dodgers’ pinch-hitter Kiké Hernandez hit a game-tying homer against reliever A.J. Minter. Cody Bellinger’s blast the following inning against Chris Martin put the Braves behind for good.
Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and Travis d’Arnaud form the nucleus of a lineup that will be expected to keep the Braves as a title contender next season.
“With our young guys, we took a huge step forward this year,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We hadn’t won a postseason series and we won two and we got within a game of the World Series. We’re taking strides in the right direction and we did it with our young players and the experience that we got.
“I don’t what this spring will bring and where we’ll be in our world, but we are in good shape here, with the experience we got, the players we have coming, a lot of our young players grew up a lot these last three months and I am excited as can be about the future of this organization and this club.”
Freeman, who had an MVP caliber season, is among the best active players never to have reached the World Series. He finished the NLCS with a 1.168 OPS and likely would have been the series MVP if the Braves won.
Freeman hit just .200 with one homer last postseason, when the Braves were eliminated by the Cardinals in the NLDS.
“Freddie is healthy this postseason and last year he wasn’t,” Snitker said before the game. “After going into the shortened season he had a phenomenal year and he just kept right on going. I would love to get to the World Series, where the world could see how great a player this guy is.”
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