New addition left fielder Justin Upton proved to Atlanta Braves fans why the team traded for him during the offseason. Upton homered in his debut to lift the Braves past the Philadelphia Phillies 7-5.
“Everything kind of fell into place tonight,” said Upton, whose solo home run came in the fifth inning after the Phillies cut the lead to 4-3. “It was great that the guys came out swinging the bats well. I was able to contribute and we got a W at the same time. You can’t beat that night.”
The sellout crowd of 51,456 at Turner Field saw the high-powered offense of the Braves cripple Phillies ace Cole Hamels for five innings. Before Monday’s game, the Braves had only been able to hit three home runs off of Hamels in 43 innings pitched against them in seven starts, but managed to tie that mark over five innings.
“They’re going to hit a lot of home runs,” Hamels said. “Obviously, to keep them from hitting home runs you have to keep the ball down. I wasn’t able to do that.”
Freddie Freeman drove in three runs with three hits, including the first of the three Braves home runs. New addition Dan Uggla homered as well.
For Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, it was nice to see that his team was able to hit the ball out of the park, but it did not come as a surprise. The Braves led the National League with 49 homers during Grapefruit League play.
Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, whose record was 153-6 before Monday’s game when his team scored four our more runs while he was in the game, started off solid, but gradually declined. He was charged with three runs, six hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings. Hudson gave up a home run in the fourth to Chase Utley in the fourth inning.
However, he got a lift from left-handed pitcher Luis Avilan, who pitched 1-2/3 scoreless innings with one hit and one walk. Avilan’s performance earned him the win and Hudson the no-decision.
With the amount of batting power in the Braves lineup, they draw very few walks, but have a high strikeout count. During spring training they had the fewest walks, with 73, but had the seventh highest number of strikeouts with 252. They struck out eight times Monday night.
“We’ve got a lot of power, and we’re not trying to hold back,” Uggla said. “If it cost us some strikeouts in situations, then that’s what it’s going to have to take.”
B.J. Upton had a quiet night at the plate, going 0-for-4 with one strikeout. Jason Heyward accounted for one run and had one walk and strikeout a piece.
The Braves will face the Phillies again on Wednesday with hopes they can keep the momentum going into this fresh season.
“Hopefully this is just the beginning,” Freeman said. “We’ve got a very balanced lineup one through eight, so it’s going to be tough for pitchers to get through us.”