LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Justin Upton was eager to get his first hit with the Atlanta Braves.
Boy, it was a memorable one Monday, even if it was just spring training.
Upton launched one of the longest home runs ever seen at the Disney World complex, a towering drive that cleared the grass berm beyond left field, as the Braves picked up their first win of the spring with a 7-6 victory over the Miami Marlins.
Upton’s teammates estimated the homer traveled at least 450 feet. He was thrilled just to get a hit after starting 0 for 6 this spring, having joined the Braves — and older brother B.J. — after a blockbuster trade with Arizona.
“I don’t know (how far it went). I don’t have a tape measure,” Justin Upton said. “I hit it good. Everything just happened to fall into place for me and I squared up. Obviously, you know when you’ve got it. The ball just leaves your bat differently when you catch one square. You more know from the sound. When you hear that sound, you know, `All right, I got that one pretty good.'”
He didn’t see fans scrambling to the top of the hill, looking up helplessly as the ball sailed over the heads toward the players’ parking lot.
“I tried to put my head down,” he said. “It’s spring training. You shouldn’t be admiring home runs right now.”
Upton was hoping he didn’t do any damage to his new teammates’ vehicles.
“I guess they’ll send me a bill if I did,” he said.
Miami manager Mike Redmond joked that he thought Upton’s homer was foul.
“That’s the way I used to hit `em,” Redmond added, breaking into a grin. “No one ever got to see `em because they were only in my dreams.”
The Marlins led 1-0 when Jason Heyward opened the fourth with a drive over the right-field wall. Upton made it back-to-back homers off loser Scott Maine, and B.J. chipped in with a double, coming around to score on a stolen base and wild pitch to make it 3-1.
That’s just the sort of speed and power the Braves are hoping to get from their revamped outfield this season. Heyward is the only holdover, joined by the Upton brothers; B.J. was a free agent who signed a five-year, $75.25 million contract.
Both Uptons had a couple of hits, and B.J. also threw out a runner trying to tag and go to third.
“We’re just trying to do what we’re capable of,” Heyward said. “We know we’ve got some speed on the bases. In the outfield, we know we can play some above-average defense. We take pride in that. We know we can hit home runs. We know we can put the ball in play and beat `em out on the basepaths. We’re just trying to bring what we can every day.”
Atlanta extended the lead to 7-1 before Miami put together a five-run eighth against Yohan Flande. Anthony Varvaro worked the ninth for a save.
“I like the way we battled,” said Redmond, whose team has largely been stripped of its high-priced players i9n an offseason purge that infuriated south Florida and made the Marlins a punch line around the rest of baseball.
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc, battling for a spot in the Miami rotation, pitched two perfect innings at the start against a lineup largely comprised of Atlanta starters.
“You always like to have a lefty in the rotation, esecially in our division (NL East) where you have a lot of big lefty hitters,” Redmond said. “If he pitches like he did today, he’s going to put a lot of pressure on us to put him on the team.”
NOTES: Kris Medlen, who is expected to be Atlanta’s opening-day starter, pitched around two hits, an error and a wild pitch to go two scoreless innings in his first spring appearance. … The Marlins outhit the Braves 14-12. Chris Coghlan, Joe Mahoney and Alfredo Silverio had two hits apiece for Miami. … Flande has gotten off to a brutal start, giving up six runs in two innings over his first two appearances.