MILWAUKEE — When he grew up dreaming about his first day in the major leagues, Sal Frelick never bothered imagining a scenario quite as remarkable as the debut he produced Saturday night.
“I think this blew it out of the water,” Frelick, a former standout at Lexington High and Boston College, said after going 3 for 3, driving in the go-ahead run, and making two outstanding catches in the Milwaukee Brewers’ 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
The 2021 first-round pick (15th overall) was the first Brewer to have at least three hits and two RBIs in his debut and was the sixth player over the last 25 years to have at least three hits and a game-winning RBI in his opening game, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“He showed us everything tonight,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He did the things that he’s good at and the reason that he’s here and the reason why he was a first-round pick. He put it all on display tonight.”
Austin Riley homered for the fifth straight game in a losing cause to tie a Braves franchise record. Riley has gone 10 for 21 with 6 homers, 16 RBIs, and 9 runs over his last five games.
Riley’s three-run shot off Adrian Houser in the third gave the Braves a 3-0 lead.
Frelick, 23, made sure the Brewers came all the way back. Devin Williams then preserved Milwaukee’s lead by working out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to earn his 25th save in 27 opportunities.
After learning he had been promoted from Triple A Nashville on Friday night, Frelick caught a Saturday morning flight to Chicago and drove about 80 miles to Milwaukee to arrive in plenty of time for the game.
His father, brother, sister, and a few friends also made it for the game, though most of them also had to fly into Chicago before driving into Wisconsin.
“Mom’s at home with the dog,” Frelick said. “She’ll be here tomorrow.”
Frelick hit an infield single in his first career plate appearance and followed that up with a single down the right-field line to begin a two-run rally in the fifth. He singled home Jesse Winker in the sixth to tie the game and knocked in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
He also produced two noteworthy plays in the sixth to prevent extra-base hits when the Brewers trailed, 3-2.
Frelick made a leaping catch of Marcell Ozuna’s shot near the top of the right-field wall and then raced into the right-center field gap, jumped, and banged against the wall to snare a drive from Orlando Arcia.
“Thanks, Sal,” Houser said after the game. “I’ll get you a steak or something here soon.”
Milwaukee’s go-ahead rally began when Willy Adames led off the eighth with a double down the left-field line against Joe Jiménez (0-3). One out later, Adames took off for third when Andruw Monasterio hit a grounder to Arcia at shortstop.
Arcia tried to retire the lead runner rather than getting the easy out at first, but Adames reached third safely when Riley couldn’t handle the throw to first. Riley was charged with an error on the play.
Frelick followed with a sinking liner to right, but Arcia slid across the plate with the go-ahead run as Ronald Acuña Jr.’s throw got away from catcher Sean Murphy.
The Braves put the tying run at third with one out in the ninth as Eddie Rosario hit a one-out single and pinch runner Forrest Wall — also making his big league debut — stole second and third. Williams struck out Arcia on a 3-2 changeup but then walked Michael Harris II and Acuña to load the bases.
Williams worked his way out of it by striking out Ozzie Albies, who hit a deep drive that went foul earlier in the at-bat.
Joel Payamps (4-1) earned the win with one inning of scoreless relief. Milwaukee’s bullpen has thrown 27⅔ consecutive scoreless innings.
Houser matched a career high with 10 strikeouts and allowed three runs in six innings. Atlanta starter Allan Winans — another player making his debut — struck out five and gave up two runs and five hits in 4⅓ innings.