ATLANTA — The sight of Freddie Freeman being hit by a pitch near the spot where his wrist was fractured last season left the Atlanta Braves revisiting bad memories they hope won't be repeated.
It was enough to make it difficult for Atlanta to celebrate its fourth straight home series win.
Ryan Flaherty homered and drove in four runs, Brandon McCarthy outpitched Vince Velasquez and the Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 on Wednesday night despite losing Freeman in the eighth inning.
Phillies left-hander Hoby Milner hit Freeman near the base of his left hand. Freeman winced, stood at the plate for a few seconds and then walked straight to the dugout to take himself out of the game.
Freeman was on track for his best season and a possible MVP run last year before missing seven weeks with a fractured left wrist. He hit .307 with 28 homers in 117 games — his second season playing fewer than 120 games in the last three years — and his time on the disabled list helped send the Braves to a 90-loss finish.
Following the game, manager Brian Snitker said Freeman was still being examined.
"It's a concern because he was hit in that hand," Snitker said.
The possibility of bad news made it difficult for the manager to even complete a wish for good results.
"Hopefully ... I don't know. I can't even comment," Snitker said.
The Braves (10-7) won two of three from the Phillies. They have won their first four home series for the first time since 2000, when they won their first five.
Losing Freeman for an extended period could be devastating, even though the team signed Jose Bautista to a minor league contract on Wednesday. Bautista, who will report to extended spring training, was brought in to play third base. The 37-year-old Bautista also has limited experience at first base.
"Hopefully he's OK," McCarthy said of Freeman. "I wasn't here last year. This one doesn't seem terrible from the get-go. Hopefully tomorrow the tests show up the same."
McCarthy (3-0) allowed one run and five hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Flaherty's three-run homer off Velasquez (1-2) gave Atlanta a 3-1 lead in the fifth. The Phillies got within one in the seventh before Dansby Swanson's homer off Edubray Ramos in the bottom of the inning put Atlanta ahead 4-2. Flaherty added a run-scoring single in the Braves' three-run eighth.
Flaherty, who began the day with an NL-best .354 batting average, strengthened his job security at third base by hitting a 93-mph fastball from Velasquez into the seats in right-centre.
The homer, the first allowed by Velasquez this season, drove in Preston Tucker, who walked, and Swanson, who singled.
Phillies: After starting the first 16 games of the season, 1B Carlos Santana was given a day off before entering the game as a pinch hitter. Rhys Hoskins started at first base after 14 starts in left field.
Braves: C Tyler Flowers (left oblique strain) could be ready for a rehab assignment this weekend. ... RHP Jose Ramirez was placed on the 10-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. LHP Jesse Biddle, a first-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2010 who had Tommy John surgery in 2015, was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett.
CONFIDENCE IN VELASQUEZ
Velasquez allowed three runs in six innings.
"I think all night long he was attacking hitters and that was why we had the confidence to send him out for the sixth," manager Gabe Kapler said.
A 'WOW' CATCH
Ender Inciarte reached over the centre-field wall to take a possible home run from Scott Kingery in the first inning. The ball could be seen sticking out of the top of Inciarte's glove as he made the catch. Watching from the mound, a grateful McCarthy mouthed "Wow."
Phillies: RHP Jake Arrieta (1-0, 3.38 ERA) is set to make his third start when Philadelphia opens a home series against Jameson Taillon and the Pirates.
Braves: After placing Anibal Sanchez on the 10-day DL with a right hamstring strain, the team did not immediately announce a new starter for Thursday night's game against the New York Mets. RHP Lucas Sims, recalled Sunday to pitch in relief, could start. Matt Harvey (0-1, 4.80 ERA) pitches for the Mets.
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