Jason Heyward played for the first time in nearly a month on Friday for the Atlanta Braves, but Justin Upton stole the show with a go-ahead grand slam in an 8-5 win in the series opener with the Los Angeles Dodgers at Turner Field.
Upton's mammo homer was his Major League-leading 14th of the season, and was probably his most majestic shot of the year and definitely the most clutch.
"As soon as he took a swing, you knew that ball was going to be out of the ballpark," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said on braves.com. "It was one of the prettiest swings I've seen him put on a baseball."
Down 4-2 in the sixth inning, Jordan Schafer deliver a pinch-hit bloop single with one out off reliever Matt Guerrier. Andrelton Simmons followed with a line drive that bounced off Luis Cruz's glove. Don Mattingly responded by yanking Guerrier for left-hander Paco Rodriguez, who immediately walked Heyward to load the bases.
Rodriguez, who had held righties under .200 entering Friday, grooved a 1-1 fastball to Upton that he belted to left-center. It was the third grand slam of Upton's career.
"You can only match up so many times," Mattingly said. "You do it in the sixth, you'll be out of pitchers. I had to pick my poison. I leave Matt in, Upton has worn him out [with three extra-base hits in six at-bats]. I'd like to match up every hitter, but they only let me have seven relievers. Somebody has to get the opposite guy out. The issue for us is to get Heyward."
It was the first time Heyward had played since April 22 due to an appendectomy and the first time Brian McCann had played at home all year, and they both made their presence felt.
Heyward doubled off Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu to left to move Simmons to third base in the third inning, and Upton drove in the first his five RBIs with a groundout. Freddie Freeman followed with an RBI-single to give the Braves their first lead. The two runs was all the Braves would score off Ryu, who also walked five and had to be pulled after just five innings.
"Any time you can get in the bullpen during the first game of a series, it gives you a little bit of an advantage," Upton said. "That was nice for us to put some pitches on the starter and then get in the bullpen."
Upton's slam also turned a shaky start from Paul Maholm into a win. Maholm gave up homers to Andy Van Slyke in the second and sixth innings, pausing in the fourth for two unearned runs resulting from a Dan Uggla error.
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