ATLANTA – A matchup of teams with the National League’s best records was also a comparison of depleted rotations.
Thanks to Freddie Freeman and J.D. Martinez, the Dodgers had more offensive support for their shaky starting pitching. Freeman’s three-run homer in the fifth inning gave Los Angeles the lead, Martinez had four hits, including two homers, and the NL West leaders rallied past the Atlanta Braves 8-6 on Monday night.
Dodgers rookie Gavin Stone allowed five runs on five hits and five walks in four innings in his second start for Los Angeles. Another rookie, Bobby Miller, will make his debut on Tuesday night as the Dodgers piece together a patchwork rotation after placing Dustin May (right elbow pain) and left-hander Julio Urías (hamstring) on the injured list. Two other candidates to start, Michael Grove and Ryan Pepiot, also are on the IL.
The Dodgers used a 12-hit outburst to storm back after the Braves took a 4-0 lead in the first.
“It’s what good teams do, find a way to win,” Martinez said.
Los Angeles won the opener of a three-game series between the top two teams in the NL. Freeman, a longtime Braves star, made the most of his second Atlanta homecoming with three hits to join Martinez in leading the comeback.
Freeman hit his go-ahead homer off Charlie Morton after Miguel Rojas singled and Mookie Betts walked.
“It felt good,” Freeman said. “Just trying to keep the line moving.”
Added Freeman: “I’m more proud Gavin was able to settle down after the first inning. That was a learning experience.”
Stone threw 34 pitches while facing nine batters in the first. Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled over James Outman in center field for his 23rd hit leading off a game this season. Acuña scored on Sean Murphy’s single.
Stone walked Austin Riley before giving up Eddie Rosario’s three-run homer for a 4-0 lead.
Morton (5-4) couldn’t hold it, allowing six runs in five innings. Freeman’s three-run homer gave the Dodgers a 6-4 lead.
Like the Dodgers, the Braves are seeking help in their rotation after losing Max Fried and Kyle Wright to injuries.
“It looks to me like it’s what everybody is having to do,” said Atlanta manager Brian Snitker. “Nobody is immune to it. You see a lot of guys making their major league debuts.”
Evan Phillips (1-0) threw a scoreless fifth. Brusdar Graterol got four outs for his third save.
Freeman doubled in the fourth for a 12-game hitting streak and scored on Max Muncy’s groundout to first base.
Martinez homered off Morton in the second and A.J. Minter in the seventh for his 20th career multi-homer game. The drive in the seventh came after Muncy singled and was caught stealing.
The start of the game was delayed 40 minutes by rain.
There was tension in the fourth when Marcell Ozuna popped out to left field and his bat hit the top of Dodgers catcher Will Smith’s helmet on the follow-through of his swing. Ozuna walked back to the plate with his hands extended as if to apologize. Smith, who missed 13 games in April with a concussion, didn’t seem eager to accept Ozuna’s words.
Acuña came out to escort Ozuna back to the dugout as Dodgers relievers walked out of their bullpen and stood in left field, waiting to see if the situation escalated. There was no further conflict, though Ozuna and Smith exchanged words again in the sixth before Ozuna’s single to right field.
Acuña pulled off an unusual stolen base after walking to open the fifth. After Stone also walked Matt Olson, Acuña advanced to second and then, with no one paying attention, took off for third as Stone held the ball.
‘SURREAL’ RETURN FOR FREEMAN
One year after struggling to control his emotions in his first return to Atlanta, Freeman had a big smile instead of tears for reporters before the game. Freeman said he felt “a massive difference” in his second season with the Dodgers following 15 years in the Braves organization and said his emotions during his 2022 return were “kind of raw. … This time, it’s been all smiles.”
Freeman tipped his helmet to fans as he received an ovation when introduced before his first at-bat.
Freeman has been reunited with outfielder Jason Heyward, his former Braves teammate, this season. “It’s kind of surreal to come full circle,” Freeman said.
Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw was placed on the bereavement list so he can attend his mother’s funeral. Kershaw is expected to rejoin the team at its next stop (Tampa Bay) and make his next start on Saturday. … RHP Wander Suero was designated for assignment with Stone added to the roster. The Dodgers selected the contract of RHP Tayler Scott, who will pitch out of the bullpen.
Miller will be recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City to make his debut against Atlanta’s Spencer Strider in a matchup of hard-throwing right-handers.