Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman runs the bases on a two-run home run off Minnesota Twins pitcher Michael Tonkin during the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 27, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Jim Mone
July 27, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Braves have struggled to score runs this year, ranking last in the majors in that department. As a result, it's been rare that an Atlanta starting pitcher has been gifted an early lead to work with.

Thanks to Freddie Freeman, the Braves bucked both trends Wednesday night.

Freeman homered, doubled and tied a career high with five RBIs as the Braves held off the Twins 9-7 for a two-game sweep.

Atlanta finished the game with 16 hits, with each player in the lineup getting at least one.

''It was nice to see that, nice to get on board early,'' Freeman said. ''We were able to continue it all the way to the fifth and sixth inning. That's all we needed tonight. The bullpen was fantastic.''

Freeman went 4 for 4 with a walk, driving in five runs for the fifth time in his career. His 18th homer gave the Braves a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning.

The Twins closed to 8-7 in the sixth on an RBI grounder by Joe Mauer. Nick Markakis singled home a run in the Atlanta eighth.

Mike Foltynewicz (4-4) got the win despite giving up seven runs and 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings. Jim Johnson pitched the ninth for his fourth save.

Hard-throwing righty Mauricio Cabrera also played a big role out of Atlanta's bullpen. He struck out three batters in 1 1/3 innings, hitting 101 mph on the Target Field radar gun.

Cabrera picked up a big strikeout of Miguel Sano to end a Twins threat in the sixth and pitched a scoreless seventh inning to keep it a one-run game.

''We talked the other night about bringing him into stressful innings,'' Braves interim manager Brian Snitker. ''I think more than probably 80 percent of the times I've brought him in, it's been game on the line or a big situation. His presence is really, really good.''

Twins starter Tyler Duffey (5-8) was chased in the second. The right-hander gave up five runs on eight hits, including a two-run homer by Jeff Francoeur in the first inning.

It was the second straight outing in which Duffey has lasted less than three innings.

''It's really frustrating when it piles up like that, and you give up the singles, and you give up the hard-hit ball,'' Duffey said. ''Watching a game like that, we come back fighting like that, end up losing, and it started with me.''

Atlanta and Minnesota entered the series with the two worst records in the majors. The Braves are 35-66, the Twins are 37-63.

The Braves are now 9-5 in regular-season matchups against the team it lost to in the 1991 World Series.

Freeman added a two-run homer in the fourth off Michael Tonkin. It was the third four-hit game of the season for Freeman, who leads the Braves with 106 hits.

A day after getting shut out, the Twins scored in the fourth on a double by Eddie Rosario. Kurt Suzuki added a two-run homer later in the inning.

''We pecked away at them, got back into the game,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said. ''They added on a couple that proved to be the difference at the end of the game. But we had chances right down to the end.''

BRAVES MAKE A DEAL

Prior to the game, Atlanta dealt right-hander Lucas Harrell and left-hander Dario Alvarez to the Texas Rangers for infield prospect Travis Demeritte.

Demeritte, 21, represented the United States in this month's All-Star Futures Game in San Diego. In 88 games with High A High Desert, he batted .272 with 25 home runs and 59 RBIs.

In five starts with the Braves this year, Harrell was 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA. Alvarez made 16 relief appearances this season for Atlanta and had a 3.00 ERA in 15 innings.

UP NEXT

Braves: Return to Atlanta to begin a four-game series against Philadelphia beginning Thursday. Right-hander Matt Wisler (4-10, 4.92 ERA) will start for the Braves.

Twins: Host Baltimore on Thursday for a makeup of a game that was rained out on May 9. Right-hander Kyle Gibson (3-6, 4.67) starts for Minnesota.

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