When Braves center fielder BJ Upton took his first at bat Sunday at Turner Field there was a radically different reaction from the Atlanta faithful than when he’d stepped to the plate just a day before. After struggling mightily through the Braves first 54 games, the center fielder struck out twice over the course of what was a 1-1 game and was booed loudly. Twice. Then with one swing of the bat everything changed.
Upton’s RBI walkoff single to right field Saturday brought the Braves a big win over division rival Washington and bought the elder Upton a break from Braves fans. He kept it going on Sunday, with a homerun in the second inning against the Nationals, his first at bat of the game. Upton went 1-4, but looked like he was starting to find his way.
His brother, Justin, found his swing on Sunday as well, after a disappointing outing the day before, and the two are beginning to look like the daunting outfield duo Braves fans were expecting when the two were signed in the offseason.
Justin Upton was 3-4 with three singles, a steal, a walk and a run scored off of a Brian McCann single. His performance led the Braves to a 6-3 over the Nationals and increased their lead in the National League East to seven games. Upton has been knocking the cover off the ball this season, but his consistency has been questionable. Sunday afternoon’s performance showed he really is capable of doing it all.
Ramiro Pena and Andrelton Simmons also played well. Simmons singled and Pena homered in the first inning to give the Braves a 2-0 lead right off the bat. The Bravos got a great pitching performance from Paul Maholm, who went six innings and got the win – his seventh of the year.
After BJ’s homer in the second made it 3-0, Atlanta was able to fight off a comeback attempt from the Nats, who scored two runs of their own in the second and added another in the sixth. The Braves got consistent scoring from the top and bottom of their lineup and never trailed in the game.
In fact, they could have scored more. Freddie Freeman’s long bomb to left field looked like a homerun to almost everyone in the stadium, but was ruled a double by the umpires during the game, a call that was upheld after replay. Freeman still managed to score Simmons and Reed Johnson to pack in two more runs, giving closer Craig Kimbrel a nice cushion to finish out the game.