Found July 09, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
The Braves secured a series win against the Marlins with a back-and-forth 6-4 win in Miami Tuesday night. Here are three observations from the game: 1. Justin Upton's bandwagon is re-issuing admission tickets It was rather surreal this past Saturday when Bryce Harper, the Nationals phenom who missed 36 straight games due to injury before returning on July 1 (in grand style), edged out Upton on the National League All-Star roster via fan voting. Sure, Harper's numbers are better; no question there. But simply watching it happen -- the league's April MVP simply fall out of the All-Star process completely in just a few months -- was strange. Perhaps it lit a fire under the younger Upton brother, as cliche as that may sound. The Braves' left fielder was already beginning to come around at the plate toward the end of June, but his hitting numbers this month are starting to approach his early-season averages -- especially after going yard for the first time since June 12 in San Diego. Upton is now hitting .297 this month, logging four multi-hit outings in eight games, including five doubles, six RBI and the previously mentioned home run. That's pretty much the No. 3 hitter the team relied on during its fast start. (Odd note: As my colleague Cory McCartney pointed out on Twitter, Upton's towering shot off Ryan Webb was his his first home run versus a non-NL West team since April 27 against the Tigers. It was his first against an NL East opponent since April 14. Strange indeed.) With the way the middle of the lineup is coming around -- Jason Heyward, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman are all hitting relatively well right now -- Upton's reinvigorated numbers could provide the push the Braves need to pad their divisional lead (six games after the Nationals fell to the Phillies) heading into the All-star break. "It's a long season. I know we're always wishing for more and that kind of stuff, but there's going to be some ups and downs," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said when asked about Upton. "He's starting to swing it like he did early on in the season. Those are good signs." Overall, the Braves enjoyed similar success but a better team-oriented result against Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez, who has made his first two starts of 2013 against Atlanta. He left the game after going six innings and allowing five runs on eight hits. His ERA now sits at 5.37 this season, all thanks to the Braves lineup. Every Braves starter reached base in the game as the lineup finished with 11 hits and six walks. "We have the potential to all start clicking at the same time," said B.J. Upton, who went 2-for-3 in the game. "We've got a lot of hard-working guys on this team and sometime this season it's gonna happen." 2. There were some flashback moments with Julio Teheran, but the rookie found his comfort zone At one point this season -- think back a couple months -- Julio Teheran was the team's least effective starter and held onto the only unblemished record on the Braves' staff. He's blossomed into one of the best rookie pitchers in the game since then, but, at least for a couple innings Tuesday night, there were April flashes even if they weren't all his fault. Teheran gave up four runs in his 7 13 innings of work, twice allowing the Marlins to take the lead in the first three innings. But that did not define the young righty's outing. "I thought Julio did a terrific job there after that second inning. We put him behind the 8-ball a little bit," Gonzalez said. "But I thought he did a nice job minimizing his pitches the rest of the game. After that second inning I'm thinking, 'Oh boy, here we go. We're gonna get him out of here in the fifth or sixth.' But he did a hell of a job getting us through deep in the ballgame." The second inning hiccup Gonzalez referenced here is the three-run home run by catcher Rob Brantley, one that was, at least indirectly, set up by a throwing error by Chris Johnson earlier in the inning. Without that error, perhaps Brantley never even bats in the inning. (Side note: The juxtaposition of Johnson and Dan Uggla fielding alongside Andrelton Simmons is still strange to me. While Simmons led all MLB players with 25 defensive runs saved entering Tuesday's game, Uggla (-11 DRS) and Johnson (-4) remain two of the team's worst fielders.) Still, the home run hurt, but it not hinder the team's plans to save the bullpen following a 14-inning affair the previous night. "That was the big mistake that I made, but I was just trying to keep my head high," said Teheran, who stayed under 100 pitches while adding three strikeouts." Added Gonzalez: "He just went after 'em." From there on out, Teheran scattered four base-runners before being relieved by Jordan Walden in the eighth. The rookie improved to 7-4. 3. Beachy makes rehab start, Martinez undergoes surgery Braves starter Brandon Beachy expected to be making starts for the big league club by now, but after feeling some elbow tenderness during his final June rehab assignment, the Atlanta front office delayed his comeback. Beachy, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, made another rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett Tuesday night against none other than former Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens. Beachy pitched three innings allowing two runs on three hits. He added a strikeout and a walk on 45 pitches. Lest this column go for 3,000 or 4,000 words, we won't delve into the decision still facing the Braves' brass once Beachy is officially added to the 25-man roster. But, barring any more setbacks, a decision is coming. In other injury-related news, Braves reliever Christhian Martinez underwent shoulder surgery on Tuesday (yes, it was a busy day for the organization). Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure, with the recovery time expected to be about seven to eight months. The team's bullpen has not missed a beat without the 31-year-old righty, who had appeared in 100 games the past two seasons with the club. Martinez joins Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty as relief staples to be lost for the 2013 season -- and it's a credit to the organization's depth that it still boasts the best bullpen ERA in baseball.
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