Last June Diamondbacks Managing General Partner, Ken Kendrick said of Justin Upton “He’s certainly not the Justin Upton that he has been in the past and that we would expect of him. He’s 24 years old, and it’s time for him to be a consistent performer and right now this year he’s not been that.” It wasn’t the first time he had implied that Upton somehow wasn’t doing enough and it started the process that ended up with Kevin Towers trading Upton; Braves fans thank him almost daily for that. In order to get J-UP the Braves had to part with their heartbeat Martin Prado as well as Randall Delgado and two other minor league players. In order to get Prado they had to send third baseman Chris Johnson along as well. Tonight the two rejected players returned and almost single handedly beat the Diamondbacks and their fine young lefty Wade Miley and I had the extreme pleasure of watching it in person.
Braves Fans Are Everywhere
Arriving at Chase Field I was struck immediately by the shear number of Braves fans I saw. Braves jersey’s were everywhere with names like Jones, Spahn, Heyward and Freeman the most prevalent while the couple who sat in front of us were both sporting Aaron jersey’s. I watched J-Up’s first at bat from Friday’s Front Row and saw that the most fans stood and applauded him though of course there were some who did not. He and the Braves went quickly in the first and I wasn’t yet back in my seat when Diamondback’s powerhouse first baseman Paul Goldschmidt put them in the lead with a long home run.
As the next few innings passed the D’backs in the area near my seats behind and to the right of the Braves dugout were very chatty and laughed when Freddie Freeman hit unto a double play after I had begged him to lift a homer and put us in the lead. Their good humor and smiles vanished pretty quickly however.
Braves Take Charge – Their Fans too
In the fourth the D’Backs started to rally when Prado and Gerardo Parra singled but that was stifled when B.J. Upton caught Wil Nieves fly ball and threw a laser from mid-centerfield to McCann cutting down Prado as he attempted to score. Josh Wilson was called out on strikes ending that inning and the rally.
In the top of the fifth Evan Gattis ironically reached on a throwing error by the usually accurate Prado and Brian McCann walked to bring up Dan Uggla. Miley promptly threw his first wild pitch of the year moving both runners up. Uggla hit his next pitch to centerfield , the sac fly scoring Gattis to level the score and bring up Johnson. CJ had singled back in the third and must have had Miley sighted in pretty well as he hit the lefty’s first pitch on a line into the left field stands (hyperlinks have video of the homers) to put the Braves ahead 3-1.
Mike Minor and Brian McCann insured a quick bottom of the fifth. Minor induced two quick ground outs but Didi Gregorius singled to bring Goldschmidt up again. On the second pitch to Goldschmidt, Gregorius tried to steal second only to be gunned down by McCann.
Miley’s wildness continued in the sixth as he nailed B.J. Upton in the bicep on his second pitch if the inning bringing his young brother Justin to the plate. Miley threw two balls out of the zone to J-Up then he tried to sneak a changeup by him. That was a mistake. The changeup hung and was last seen flying over the fence onto the concourse 440 feet from home plate. The huge Braves contingent erupted when that happened but, Miley’s woes weren’t over. With the Braves fans familiar chop ringing around the ballpark Freeman doubled, Miley uncorked his second wild pitch moving Freeman to third, Gattis walked and McCann singled driving Freeman in and ending Miley’s night.
Josh Collmenter managed to get Uggla to ground into a force play but Johnson continued to be a hard out doubling Gattis in before Mike Minor ended the inning by striking out. Through the whole Braves rally the Chop continued unabated and unchallenged by the shell shocked D’Backs fans. In the bottom of the inning Cody Ross singled and Prado followed that up with a double. Ross was waived home on Prado’s double but a perfect Gattis throw to cutoff man Andrelton Simmons was followed by a rifle shot from Simba to McCann and Ross was out by a a few feet. That was also the last semblance of a rally from Arizona
Brian McCann opened the eighth inning with a 444 foot blast off of Tony Sipp and Dan Uggla launched a big fly to the deepest part of the ballpark but it stayed in play and ended up on second base where the stayed as the inning ended. In the ninth J-Up singled, Freeman singled and Reed Johnson singled driving home Upton and McCann hit a sac fly scoring Freeman.
That’s A Wrap
Phoenix was a scorching 100 today and the Braves bats did some scorching of their own. The return of Justin Upton and Chris Johnson to Phoenix went exactly as they would have wished and the Braves were happy to assist the well liked pair have the last emphatic word on their departure. It was good to see this happen to another team too as the Braves have often been on the receiving end of such messages. It was good as well to see the bats wake up again. Let’s hope that continues on for the next 6 months or so.