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Freeman's huge day lifts Braves to win

March 20, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla (26) congratulates first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) after Freeman hit a home run during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

March 20, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla (26) congratulates first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) after Freeman hit a home run during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Freddie Freeman, fitting perfectly into his role as the Braves' new cleanup hitter, can't wait to get the regular season going.

Who could blame the first baseman?

Freeman was 4-for-4 with two homers, a double and four RBIs as Atlanta routed the Pirates 18-9 on Wednesday at Champion Stadium.

"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 Braves (15-11) finished with 21 hits and have scored 35 runs in their past two games.

Freeman, who has five of his seven Grapefruit League homers in his past six games, is batting .373 (22-for-59) and has 15 RBIs.

"That's a quality lineup over there," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Leadoff hitter Andrelton Simmons had two homers and a double, also getting four RBIs, in his first game back from the World Baseball Classic.

The Braves had nine extra-base hits and five players had multi-hit games.

The high-scoring game came on the heels of scoring six first-inning runs en route to a 17-10 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday. Atlanta picked up right where it had left off with five first-inning runs against the Pirates after an off day Tuesday.

Kyle McPherson, competing for a spot in the Pittsburgh rotation, was the victim this time. He worked 4 innings and gave up 10 hits and nine runs (eight earned).

Braves starter Mike Minor drove in the final first-inning run with a double, but he had his own struggles on the mound. The left-hander gave up 10 hits and five runs in four innings, walking three and striking out five.

Andrew McCutchen hit a third-inning homer off Minor and was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. The Pirates (10-14) had 16 hits, but 14 were singles.

Notes: Jordan Parraz had a three-run, pinch-hit homer for the Braves in the seventh inning. It was his second homer of the spring and he is batting .306. ... Jordan Walden, who has been battling back issues, made his first appearance for the Braves since Feb. 23 and allowed a run in the fifth inning. He walked two and allowed a hit. ... The Braves sent lefty reliever Dusty Hughes to minor league camp, reducing the spring roster to 40. ... Tim Hudson will start when the Braves host the Nationals in a 6:05 p.m. game today at Champion Stadium.