PHILADELPHIA – As Freddie Freeman struggled to close the door during his prestigious Braves tenure, Matt Olson faced pressure to replace him in Atlanta. But as the season’s midway point approaches, he looks like a suitable successor.
Olson lifted his second multihomer game in eight days and helped the Braves to a 5-3 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night. Homer, who went on to make his decisive move in the eighth, added value to his bat, gloves and personality since he took over from A’s in March.
“I think he knows he’s a big part of the team on and off the field,” Braves starter Charlie Morton said. “He gives us a good presence in the clubhouse. He’s a really valuable guy around. ”
When the first baseman returned to Atlanta after signing with the Dodgers in March, Olson was reminded of Freeman’s influence. He understood that. To Lilburn, Ga .; The 16-year-old, who lives here, was a Braves fan when Freeman began a 12-season stint with Atlanta in 2010.
But now that Freeman has moved on, it’s time for Atlanta-area teens to get excited about Olson, who has been appreciating the comfort he’s had since joining the team in his hometown. The 28-year-old first baseman is calm and shy. But as the opener has shown in this series against the Phillies, he can make a strong impact on the field.
“These guys have been great from the beginning and they’re getting better now,” Olson said. “I’m glad to be here.”
As the Braves went 20-5 in June, they pulled in four games for the first-place Mets in the National League East and placed themselves in one of the NL’s three wild card spots. Olson’s emphasis on the last two Tuesday-recorded two-homer games will improve Atlanta’s attempt to win the World Series for the second time in a row.
Travis D’Arnaud and Olson teamed up in the first inning to hit homers ahead of Zack Wheeler, and Morton finished sixth after the first rocky encounter. Kyle Schwarber hit a game-tying homer off Dillon Lee’s ball in the seventh inning, but Olson hit the decisive shot with a single shot from Andrew Bellatti in his eighth inning.
Each of the five hits Olson recorded in 16 at-bats at Citizens Bank Park was a home run.
“The ball goes very well here compared to other places,” Olson said.
In fact, the ball has traveled well for Olson this entire season. His .253 batting average compiled from 75 games and .831 OPS probably won’t jump off the page. But he leads the Majors with 29 doubles and his 41 extra-base hits are just four short of Jose Ramirez’s MLB-leading total.
Olson’s 12 homers beat him to 25 this year. Just one wave could be enough to hit at least 29 homers in a fourth 162-game season in a row. He also holds the record for 62 doubles. Only six MLB players have reached a staggering 60 doubles, but no player has reached this stage since 1936.
For 41 extra base hits? Well, Olson is on track to record 88 of these. The only Braves player to reach this total was Hank Aaron, who made 92 extra-base hits in 1959.
“I love him,” Morton said. “He is a good friend and a great bowler. He was happy to see success and all this. But I really enjoy being with him all the time. ”