Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber, front left, is doused by teammates Bryson Stott, right, and Brandon Marsh, back left, after a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday, June 9, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Phillies have stormed into June clawing back from their sub-.500 season start, but their Friday night home win over the Dodgers was almost ruined by a slugger whose history shows him to be the preeminent Phillie-killer.

Freddie Freeman hit his first major-league home run back in 2010 off none other than Roy Halladay. This was the year Halladay would be voted the National League’s top pitcher. The Phillies ace was at the height of his powers, throwing a perfect game and a no-hitter in the postseason.

That hit probably should have been a clue about Freeman, then a 20-year-old September callup: No one could ever stop him. 

Freeman had reached Double-A in the minors when he was still a teenager. The scouts said that if he wanted to see his doubles turn into home runs, all he’d have to get was a little stronger. He didn’t like to draw walks. Walks don’t turn into home runs. He hit a lot of doubles.

Since then, Freeman has played in 205 games against the Phillies, more than any other opponent. He’s hit home runs off Philadelphia pitchers 32 times. He’s only homered off the Marlins more. He’s homered off everybody from Hoby Milner to David Buchanan to Chad Billingsley. Between September 2010 and April 2013, he homered off Roy Halladay three times and Cole Hamels twice. 

As the Phillies scrambled to fill out a pitching staff in the last rebuild era, all Freeman saw was batting practice. 

We thought when he left the division in 2022, there’d be a respite. But he kept circling like a predator around a campsite. Playing with the Dodgers, his route just got a little wider. 

There he was last night, waiting in the dugout like a hibernating monster. The 2023 Phillies had just seen Freeman out in Los Angeles, when they’d been outscored 36-11. Freeman went 6-for-13 for the series and somehow only had the second-best performance against the Phillies (Mookie Betts notched one more hit). 

Freeman’s home run out west was his fifth of the season, a high drive he buried 10 or 12 rows deep into Dodger Stadium. He hit it sort of casually, while Los Angeles was already up 8-1. The game had been chalked up as a loss for Philadelphia long before Craig Kimbrel served him a meatball. But Freeman felt the need to put his personal stamp of ownership on the Phillies anyway; an extra shot of humiliation deposited in the right field bleachers. 

Not every home run needs to be dramatic or important. Some are just insults, moving at 110 mph.

Freeman arrived in Philly on Friday intent on doing what he always does. Other than his two teams’ ballparks in Atlanta and Los Angeles, respectively, he hasn’t played anywhere more than Citizens Bank Park. In 108 games, he’s a .285 hitter in Philadelphia with an .848 OPS. 

He came into the game last night having homered at Marlins Park in Miami 16 times and CBP only 15. But when he stepped in the box after Betts’ two-run bomb in the seventh had made the Phillies’ comfortable 4-1 lead a 4-3 nail-biter, Freeman was intent on evening the score. 

Four-hundred and twelve feet later, he did just that off Matt Strahm.

When a teenage fan stole Freeman’s spotlight 

By now, Phillies fans know Freddie Freeman home runs very well. They do not feel good. They often ruin the whole evening. Parents have to turn to their children and explain why the Phillies didn’t win, and it’s because that man down there in the Dodgers uniform doesn’t care who he hurts when he swings his bat. 

In April 2021, Freeman smashed a home run that bounced off the glove of a 14-year-old Phillies fan and into the Braves bullpen at Truist Park in Atlanta. 

The kid got the ball back and cameras were rolling when, instead of hurling it on the field in a useless act of rebellion, he handed it to a young Braves fan in a Freddie Freeman jersey.

The country melted. TV producers screamed. ESPN lost their minds. A Phillies fan who wasn’t a feral animal, snapping at anyone who got within biting distance? They’d never seen such grace and charity from someone in a Phillies hat. Apparently. It turned out Phillies fans were…people, too. 

The story of the Teenage Phillies Fan Who Wasn’t Terrible captivated the baseball community for a round of the news cycle, causing Freeman’s plans to humiliate the Phillies with another home run to backfire. 

And last night, Philadelphia again had another ending in mind. After Freeman tied the game, 4-4, the Phillies kept the Dodgers from taking the lead until Kyle Schwarber could get back in the batter’s box for a June at bat. Then, it was just a matter of time

Freddie Freeman will never stop homering off Phillies pitchers. It doesn’t matter if Aaron Nola finds his fastball or they acquire a solid fifth starter. His bat will find the ball and the ball will find the sky. 

But after more than a decade of watching him ruin afternoons in South Philly, we’ve learned from a nice kid doing the right thing, and from Kyle Schwarber crushing a walk-off tater:

It’s not about stopping Freddie Freeman from hitting homers. It’s about what we do after they land.

Justin Klugh has been a Phillies fan since Mariano Duncan's Mother's Day grand slam. He is a columnist and features writer for Baseball Prospectus, and has written for The Inquirer, Baltimore Magazine,...