Story contributed by Steven Lieberman –
On August 31, 2018, in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired infielder David Freese and his 2011 MVP Cardinals World Series championship experience.
On Saturday, September 1st, against the National League Western Division rival Diamondbacks, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts didn’t waste any time, as he inserted Freese into the lineup at first base, batting in the fifth spot for his debut. Freese brought a gift to the party be hitting safely in his first at-bat, a solid single and finished the game going 1-for-2 with a hit by pitch and displaying a stellar performance in the field.
Thanks to Matt Kemp’s clutch come-from-behind three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers went on to win 3-2 and took over sole possession of first place in the West. This was a great way for Freese to celebrate his debut, as the Dodgers are furiously battling the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies for supremacy in the NL West.
Freese has hit the ball well in his last 24 games since July 26, batting .308 with 10 runs, four doubles, four home runs and 17 RBI while still with the Pirates. This was a timely addition, since Chris Taylor is experiencing a hitting slump this season with the most strikeouts in the majors, a productive bat was needed to fill that void. To that end, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi decided to add one final addition before the deadline for postseason eligibility (August 31 waiver deadline); trading minor league infielder Jesus Manuel Valdez on Friday night for Freese.
The newly acquired 35-year old will be utilized as a right-handed hitting platoon option at first base and might occasionally play third to give Justin Turner some rest.
“He’s a veteran presence, offensive, great clubhouse guy,” said Roberts, who plans to start Freese exclusively against lefties. “Our guys [GM Zaidi and others in the front office] have done a great job supporting us, and I’m really excited to have him.”
Eight hours before Freese was added to the roster, the Dodgers also acquired veteran reliever Ryan Madson from the Nationals who will be a threat coming out of the bullpen.
Freese, so far this season has blasted nine home runs, 41 RBI, and a .784 OPS. That OPS is his highest since his All-Star season in 2012. Of course, the 35-year-old is best known for his superhuman performance in the postseason for the Cardinals in 2011, especially in the World Series against the Rangers. In Game 6 at Busch Stadium, 11th inning, and with two strikes, Freese hit a game-winning lead-off, walk-off, solo home-run to deep center (420 feet) to send the series to Game 7. It was one of the greatest ‘shots heard around the world.’
“Definitely happy to have him,” Turner said. “An ultimate professional hitter, love watching him take his at-bats, and looking forward to wearing the same jersey as him.”
* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.