Taking three cuts after the Braves’ 2-0 win over the Marlins in Miami on Monday.
1. Justin Upton took his fireworks display on the road
After hitting five home runs in six games at home, Upton continued to put on a show in his first days in a Braves uniform as he went 4 for 4 with a home run, a double, two singles and he scored the game’s only runs.
Facing Kevin Slowey in the sixth inning, he took a 1-0 four-seam fastball and sent it to left field, where it careened off a pole above the 401-foot sign. That homer made him just the second player in history to hit six in his first seven games with a team, joining Jack Cust, who did it with the Athletics in 2007.
“I knew I got that one right away,” Upton said. “It was a fastball in. I got the barrel on it and I knew from the get-go.”
He’s also the first to reach six HRs this fast since Alex Rodriguez in ’07 and is the only Brave to do it.
Amazingly, Upton is just 11 away from equaling his total from last year (17), with the season just a week old and it’s well within reason to believe he could break the franchise record of 10 home runs in April, which is shared by Andres Galarraga (1998, 2000) and Ryan Klesko (1996).
“I’m just getting good pitches to hit and I’m putting myself in a good position to hit and it’s all just synching up,” Upton said.
2. Maholm continues his scoreless run
Plenty of attention has been paid to the Braves’ offense but the pitching, most notably that of Paul Maholm, has been impressive in its own right.
He followed up his 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Phillies on April 3 by blanking Miami over seven innings and allowed just one hit over 98 pitches. Maholm hasn’t allowed a run at all in 2013, keeping opponents off the scoreboard in 20 2/3 innings in spring training.
“Pretty much everything (was working),” Maholm said. “It was just going out there and trying to get ahead, making pitches.”
Said manager Fred Gonzalez: “I thought he had command of all his pitches and he kept them off balance with two different types of curveballs. We saw his normal hard curveball and he took a little bit off on the curveball and he’s done that a few times now. He was able to get ahead and throw the breaking ball.”
In blanking the Marlins he struck out seven and walked three and went through a stretch when he retired nine in a row and 13 of 14 batters. But his mastery of this team is nothing new; in three starts against Miami last season, he had two wins and allowed just three runs in 21 1/3 innings.
3. Get used to seeing Gattis behind the plate
Before the season, Gonzalez wouldn’t categorize Evan Gattis as the backup catcher, instead saying he would likely share duties with Gerald Laird until Brian McCann makes his return from shoulder surgery.
But Gattis is starting to show he’s the right choice for this team right now behind the plate.
As long as Freddie Freeman is on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique injury, Gattis is expected to bat in Freeman’s place at cleanup. While his place in the lineup is largely fueled by his bat, Gattis went 1-for-4 on Monday – his second straight start – and he’s now hitting .333 with five hits and a home run in 15 at-bats. He’s also continuing to show strong defensive acumen, digging a number of Maholm’s breaking balls out of the dirt.
Laird hasn’t exactly hurt his case, hitting .400 in 10 at-bats, and with his experience should continue to get the start, at the least, when rookie Julio Teheran is on the mound.