KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Freddie Freeman was already fitting in nicely in the cleanup spot for Atlanta. Now, the Braves also have leadoff batter Andrelton Simmons back and he's hitting well, too.
Simmons, who just returned from the World Baseball Classic, and Freeman each hit two home runs to help the Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 18-9 on Wednesday.
"It's the way you want to start back," said the young shortstop, who also had a double. "I hope I didn't waste all my home runs."
The Braves finished with 21 hits and have totaled 35 runs in their past two games.
"That's a quality lineup over there," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Braves don't count on the slick-fielding Simmons for homers. But they need Freeman to continue his spring power surge into the season as he takes over the fourth spot in the batting order.
"He one of the most naturally talented young hitters in baseball," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I'm not surprised (with what he's doing)."
The first baseman, who has five of his seven spring homers in his past six games, was 4 for 4 and drove in four runs. He is batting .373 (22 for 59) and has 15 RBIs.
"He looks great," Simmons said. "He is really swinging good."
So is the native of Curacao. The Netherlands was the surprise team of the WBC, reaching the semifinals, and Simmons was one of the big reasons for the team's success.
Simmons batted .333 with three doubles, two homers, six RBIs and 10 runs scored in eight WBC games.
"We had a blast," the 23-year-old said. "I didn't expect it to be that fun. I didn't expect the team to be that good. It was great."
The high-pressure games also prepared Simmons for his first full major league season. "I feel more like game ready," he said.
Gonzalez certainly liked what he saw of the player who is replacing Michael Bourn as the Braves' leadoff hitter.
"He had some great at-bats," said the manager, adding. "It wasn't like he'd been on vacation."