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BRAVES NOTEBOOK: Freeman due back in lineup vs. Rockies

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman could be back from the 15-day disabled list as early as Monday when Atlanta plays the red-hot Rockies.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman could be back from the 15-day disabled list as early as Monday when Atlanta plays the red-hot Rockies.

PITTSBURGH — The Braves kept hitting and winning with Freddie Freeman on the disabled list, but there was no question they were eagerly awaiting the return of their first baseman and cleanup hitter.

Barring a setback this weekend, that should happen in Colorado on Monday — the first day he is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list.

Freeman took batting practice with Class AAA Gwinnett on Thursday and is scheduled to play three games with the team this weekend against Charlotte, two on the road.

“Everything felt great,” Freeman said after hitting and taking ground balls before Gwinnett’s home game with Norfolk that ended a series. “I’m going to swing all out, because that’s the only way you can test it. If everything is good the next three games, I’ll be flying to Colorado on Monday.”

Freeman, batting .412 with a homer and seven RBI over the first five games, was angry when the Braves put him on the DL because of a right oblique strain. He voiced his displeasure loudly.

But the Braves decided to err on the side of caution, and everyone now seems to be on the same page.

“I’ve had a week to calm down,” Freeman said before the Braves extended their winning streak to 10 games on Tuesday.

The streak ended the next day as the Braves were shut out for the second time in as many losses. That illustrated the highs and lows of a Braves lineup that features plenty of strikeouts as well as home runs.

The Braves (13-2) hit four more homers in a 6-4 victory at Pittsburgh on Thursday night, given them 29 in 15 games. But they are also on a pace to set a team record for strikeouts.

Freeman makes more consistent contact than the team’s other power hitters, and that is a valuable commodity.

Playing at Coors Field could help Freeman pick up where he left off at the plate for the Braves. But it is also where he had eye issues last May that he feels are in the past.

“Let’s just hope that’s a good place to hit and my eyes stay good,” he said.

GATTIS DOES IT AGAIN:Evan Gattis’ pinch-hit, two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning Thursday broke a tie and lifted the Braves to a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

That continued the legend of Gattis, who is making the jump from Double-A to the major leagues and has hit five home runs in the first 15 games for the Braves (13-2).

“To come off bench and do what he did today says a lot,” Atlanta center fielder B.J. Upton said. “A lot of guys don’t know how to handle that situation, especially a young player. He just went up there and stayed within himself. It was a really good at-bat. It was impressive.”

Gattis had started the previous nine games as the cleanup hitter while playing catcher, first base and left field. Manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to give Gattis a rest Thursday because he wanted veteran Gerald Laird to catch rookie Julio Teheran.

“Hey, I’m 1-for-1,” Gattis said with a smile when jokingly asked for the secret to his pinch-hitting success. “I don’t really have anything to compare it to. It was a good matchup between me and what (Hughes) throws. I had a chance to see a couple of pitches, which helped. Then I got a ball on the barrel of the bat.”

Atlanta hit four home runs, as B.J. Upton, Chris Johnson and Justin Upton also connected. Russell Martin and Pedro Alvarez went deep for Pittsburgh.