A few weeks ago, David Freese thought he would end his season playing in meaningless games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They were fading in the standings. The non-waiver trade deadline had passed. The waiver deadline was fast approaching. His place in Pittsburgh appeared cemented.
Then, on Aug. 31, minutes before the waiver trade deadline passed, Freese was dealt to the Dodgers. A day later he was in the starting lineup. He was suddenly instrumental for a club fighting for a sixth straight division crown. His addition has proven invaluable.
After going three for four with a home run in Monday’s 7-4 win at Arizona, the 35-year-old infielder is batting .375 with two home runs and a 1.130 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 38 plate appearances for Los Angeles while getting his starts at first base against left-handed pitchers and supplying a positive clubhouse presence. He’s made a case to make the Dodgers’ postseason roster, should they clinch a berth and face a club featuring a heavy left-hander presence.
“He’s all that we had hoped for,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Freese was added to provide another proven right-handed bat — Manny Machado and Brian Dozier were acquired the previous month — for a club that had struggled against left-handed pitching. He hit .282 with a .780 OPS in 94 games for Pittsburgh. He was performing better against righties than lefties, though his track record contains greater production against southpaws. He boasts postseason success — and a World Series most valuable player award — on his resume. He added value. But his role was unclear. The Dodgers already had Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy splitting time at first base. At-bats appeared limited. Freese was an afterthought in the grand scheme on a roster gushing talent.
But the Dodgers have decided to start Freese against left-handers and he’s produced. Freese made his 10th start at first base with the Dodgers on Monday. He batted third, between Justin Turner and Machado — the platoon-happy Dodgers’ only two everyday players this month as they seek to maximize production carrying an expanded roster — with left-hander Robbie Ray on the mound for Arizona. Freese immediately delivered: He smacked an RBI single in the first inning.
Four innings later, after Turner worked an 11-pitch at-bat, Freese lined a solo home run the other way off a tiring Ray to tie the game at two. He added an infield single off right-handed submariner Brad Ziegler in the seventh inning. Machado then drove in the go-ahead run with a groundout.
“He’s got some big hits for us,” Robert said. “And tonight was probably his biggest hit, the homer to tie the game up.”
Freese’s night ended in the bottom of the inning, when Roberts elected to replace him at first base with the left-handed-hitting Muncy, who had pinch-hit. Muncy later worked a leadoff walk in the ninth, advanced to third on Turner’s single, and scored on a wild pitch to give Los Angeles a 5-3 lead. The Dodgers tacked on two more runs, finishing what Freese sparked as they cut their magic number to clinch the National League West to five.
“You understand what this organization is trying to do,” Freese said.