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Freeman powers Braves past Mets

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- With nine 100-RBI seasons to his credit, including eight in a row from 1996 through 2003, Chipper Jones knows a budding middle-of-the-order hitter when he sees one. And in teammate Freddie Freeman, Jones sees a player with the talent to take the baton from him as the Atlanta Braves' premier power hitter.

Freeman finished with five RBI and hit a mammoth three-run homer during a seven-run second inning and Kris Medlen threw 6 1/3 solid innings as the Atlanta Braves routed the New York Mets 9-3 in front of 30,388 Saturday at Citi Field.

The Braves' 14th win in their last 17 games kept them atop the National League wild-card race. The Mets lost for the sixth time in their last eight games to fall a season-high six games below .500.

Freeman has a team-high 74 RBI in just 377 at-bats, two fewer RBI than he had as a rookie in 571 at-bats last season. The 22-year-old first baseman -- born less than a year before the Braves drafted Jones with the top pick in the 1990 draft -- battled a sore left index finger earlier in the season but is hitting .318 with five homers and 30 RBI in 129 at-bats since July 1, a pace that has put a 100-RBI season within sight.

"(A 100-RBI season is) pretty big for guys in the middle of the lineup, especially young guys," said Jones, who is retiring after this season. "Get it once and get some confidence and know that you can go out there and do it every year. And Freddie's a guy, (if) he stays healthy, he could run off a few 100-RBI seasons in a row."

Freeman's blast traveled over not only the 408-foot center-field fence but also the home run apple that lies well beyond the fence. It capped the Braves' second-inning outburst, during which they sent 10 batters to the plate, and gave Atlanta a 9-0 lead.

"I don't know how far that went, but if you guys say like 400, I'm going to be upset," Freeman said with a laugh.

Freeman put the Braves on top in the first with a two-out, two-run double. He entered the game third in the major leagues with 34 two-out RBI.

"Big two-run double after we got first and second (followed by) two strikeouts," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Little by little, this guy's growing and he's maturing and growing up as a hitter in the major leagues right in front of our eyes."

Michael Bourn had three singles for the Braves while Freeman, Reed Johnson and Jason Heyward had two hits apiece.

The early outburst was plenty for Medlen (3-1), who allowed one run for the third time in as many starts since joining the rotation on July 31. He gave up five hits -- including three in the second -- and one walk while striking out seven.

Mets starter Johan Santana, back after missing three weeks with a right ankle sprain, endured one of the worst starts of his career. Santana (6-8) allowed eight runs on eight hits and one walk in just 1 1/3 innings. It was just the second time in 283 career starts that Santana failed to last at least two innings.

Mets manager Terry Collins took solace in Santana's improved velocity -- he was clocked as high as 90 mph in a first-inning strikeout of Jones -- as well as the fact that he came out of the start healthy.

"Just a night where it was tough for him because he was throwing strikes and using his pitches," Collins said. "His command was off. So we move forward. But at least he feels good, he feels like he's OK and that's good."

Santana has allowed at least six runs in each of his last four starts and in five of his nine starts since he threw the Mets' first no-hitter on June 1. He surrendered six runs in a start just 12 times in 222 starts from his first season as a full-time starter in 2004 through 2010.

Ruben Tejada and Andres Torres each had two hits and an RBI for the Mets.

Bourn singled on Santana's second pitch of the game, and he and Johnson scored on Freeman's two-out double to give the Braves a 2-0 lead.

The Braves chased Santana in the second, when they recorded five singles. Jones' RBI single chased Santana and Freeman greeted reliever Jeremy Hefner with the monstrous three-run homer. The seven runs in the second inning were the most the Braves have scored in a single frame all year.

Every Braves starter had at least one hit in the first five innings except catcher Brian McCann, who missed the previous two games as he waited for a cortisone shot to take effect in his sore right shoulder.

The Mets pieced together a run in the second, when Ike Davis singled, went to second on Mike Baxter's one-out single and scored on Torres' single.

NOTES: Santana lasted just 1 1/3 innings against the Braves on April 17, when he allowed six runs (four earned). He has a 12.79 ERA in four starts against Atlanta this season. ... To make room for Santana on the roster, the Mets designated for assignment left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson, who gave up four runs in one-third of an inning in his lone appearance with the Mets on Wednesday. ... Jones was back in the lineup after missing Friday's game with a sore back. With his single in the second inning, he has delivered at least one hit in 31 of his last 36 games. ... Braves pitcher Tommy Hanson, who has been on the disabled list since July 31 with a lower back strain, is scheduled to make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday. Prior to getting hurt, Hanson was 12-5 with a 4.29 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 126 innings. ... Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, who was placed on the disabled list Aug. 1 with a right groin strain, allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings in his first rehab start for Gwinnett on Friday.
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