ST. LOUIS—David Freese expects everything to happen just like last fall. Call him spoiled.
Being more demanding of himself has meant frustrating times for the MVP of the World Series and National League Championship Series last October. Before busting a 3-for-34 slump with a two-hit game that included a home run on Wednesday, Freese got two days off work on solutions and, of equal importance, clear his head. He homered again Thursday night, another two-hit day.
“You take a breath first, you understand that you can’t make this game harder,” Freese said. “You just try and simplify everything, go back to slowing everything down at the plate, and just doing what you need to do and not trying to be Superman out there.”
Getting back to basics and trying not to overthink at the plate was the ticket for at least one day. Going forward, Freese’s plan is continually remind himself to keep it simple. He’ll also try to remember that he’s only human.
“I think I handle the highs pretty well but when things go down I’m hard on myself and I think everybody knows that,” Freese said. “I’m my biggest critic, and I think that’s obviously something I need to work on. When you expect perfection, you’re going to be fighting yourself.”
So he’s doing his best to not to fixate on the numbers when things are going sour. During that slump, all three hits were in a single game.
“Three for whatever I was, that wasn’t very good,” Freese said. “But I’m turning the page.”
After the mini-break, the Cardinals saw a different player.
“I think the results are indicative of his state,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to start over and get back to the basics and figure some things out.”
Freese has been an everyday presence in the middle of the lineup, a big change from his previous experience. Due to injuries, he’s never played 100 games in a season, and said the challenge is as much mental as it is physical.
Last year, he played in 97 games and totaled 10 homers and 55 RBIs before emerging as a force in the postseason.
“Your body’s going to grind through it, but six months of getting after it every day and not missing a beat with the opposing pitcher every day, against every ace,” Freese said. “The guys that make the big money in this game, they earn it, because they’re in there every day and they’re fighting.”
Freese was one of those guys last October when he totaled a postseason-record 21 RBIs, and batted .348 in the World Series with seven RBIs three doubles and a game-ending homer in Game 6 against the stunned Texas Rangers. Now he’s working on the other six months.
His last season without an injury interruption was in 2008 in the minors. So far, he says his problematic ankles feel just fine and at third base he’s having a “good old time.”
With the bat, he’s working on regaining confidence while doing his best to project a bit of a swagger.
“You go up to the plate, you’ve got to know you can hit, because that pitcher, he might not know if you’re scuffling or not,” Freese said. “You can fake it a little bit.”
During his occasional scuffles, Freese said batting coach Mark McGwire has been a huge help.
“I love Mark McGwire, he’s the man,” Freese said. “It’s a real treat having him around because he’s so positive, and he knows what he’s doing.”