Freddie Freeman of the Braves wins 2020 National League MVP award

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NEW YORK – Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman easily won the NL MVP award on Thursday, capping a trying year that has seen him fall so ill with COVID-19 that he begged ‘please don’t take me’.

Freeman got 28 of the first 30 ballots from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts got the other two firsts to finish second and San Diego third baseman Manny Machado, third.

In a pandemic-affected Spring World Series training season, perhaps it was fitting that the last major prize of the year went to someone infected with the virus.

Three weeks before the delayed opening day in late July, Freeman’s body temperature spiked to 104.5 degrees and he lost his sense of taste and smell. At one point, he recalls, he said a little prayer because “I wasn’t ready.”

The 31-year-old star has rebounded in a big way, hitting .341 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs while playing all 60 games. A powerful left-handed hitter with the ability to pulverize the ball all over the field, he led the majors hitting 23 doubles and scoring 51 points.

Reinforced by the four-time All-Star, the Braves won the NL East and clinched a victory after reaching the World Series for the first time since 1999.

Freeman is the sixth different player in Braves franchise history to be the NL MVP. Chipper Jones recently took the honor in 1999 – Freeman wears a tattered Braves T-shirt under his uniform handed down to him by Jones.

Betts were looking to join Frank Robinson as the only players to win the MVP in both leagues. The 28-year-old outfielder won the AL honor in 2018 while leading Boston to the World Series title.

Traded by the Red Sox to Los Angeles earlier this year, Betts hit .292 with 16 home runs and 39 RBIs and was the catalyst for the Dodgers’ run to their first championship since 1988.

Machado hit .304 with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs as San Diego made its first playoff appearance since 2006.

– With files from The Associated Press

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