The Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves reignited their rivalry with an exciting series over the weekend that ultimately felt like it was played in the Upside Down.
From Kenley Jansen’s blown save to give the Dodgers life Sunday night to Freddie Freeman’s welling emotions to Craig Kimbrel’s extra-inning battles with himself and his Braves forefathers, every part of this rivalry series felt somehow mismatched. And Dodgers legend Clayton Kershaw laid his concern plain about Freeman’s wild ride when approached over the weekend to talk about what he witnessed during the 32-year-old’s first trip back to his old stomping grounds.
Considering this was the regular season — and the first weekend back after a locked-out offseason — it’s understandable Freeman’s return to Atlanta became more about the narrative than the on-field competition. But if these two teams lock horns in October, Kershaw and the Dodgers can’t have a distracted Freeman. The Dodgers will need all of their All-Star first baseman moving forward.
That’s why Kershaw spoke up over the weekend, noting that he really hopes the “special” Dodgers don’t end up “second fiddle” to Freeman’s old club. It seems the left-hander doesn’t entirely believe Freeman’s comfortable in his new blues; in fact, he stated plainly that, “Whenever [Freeman] gets comfortable over here, he’ll really enjoy it.”
Kind of … unexpectedly blunt?
Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw wants Freddie Freeman to focus on his team
Kershaw’s quote came from a one-on-one interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Gabe Burns, and not a mass-marketed interview with ESPN (as the Worldwide Leader’s graphic would maybe have you believe). His thoughts came in an honest and quiet moment, spent after soaking up Friday evening’s press conference fallout and the thunderous ovation meant for Freeman.
Kershaw wasn’t necessarily warning Freeman, but he was realigning him a little bit after watching him receive universal adoration from his former fans.
They’ll be plenty of time for that, after all, once his job is done this season and for the five seasons after that.
Freeman did hold up his end of the bargain this week, earning NL Player of the Week honors by hitting .440 with a pair of homers, rediscovering his power stroke in the process.
The Dodgers will only go as far as Freeman does, though, especially after we watched their 2021 season get derailed by a last-second first base vacancy. It’s possible their journey’s length depends on how well Freeman is able to block out the noise — yes, even love from Atlanta — moving forward.