B.J. Upton gives Braves fans reason to cheer
ATLANTA -- Braves fans have been much more patient than many other fan bases might have been with B.J. Upton during this season's first two months. But their patience had started to wear thin as the outfielder's struggles mounted over the past few weeks.
Upton heard boos after he went hitless in his second and third at-bats against the Nationals on Saturday night. But as he strolled to the plate with one out in the 10th inning of a tie game, he was serenaded by a group of fans loudly chanting, "B.J., B.J."
"I couldn't hear that, that's outstanding," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That doesn't surprise me with the Atlanta fan base, but that was very good because, like I said earlier, he's been getting beat up pretty good, and for him to hear that and feel that, I'm sure it feels good for him."
Energized by the moment and the reception, Upton delivered an opposite-field, walk-off single that gave the Braves a 2-1 victory. The broken-bat hit off Henry Rodriguez could prove to be the spark the veteran outfielder needs to distance himself from the .145 batting average he carried into Saturday.
"It felt pretty good," Upton said. "Obviously, there's been some booing going on, but in a big moment in the game, it's like they forgot all about the past and stood behind me, and I appreciate it."
After leaving Upton out of Friday night's lineup for the fifth time in a seven-game span, Gonzalez said it would not benefit the veteran center fielder to sit much longer. Gonzalez stuck with this belief when he put Upton back in the eighth spot of the lineup for Saturday night's game.
Upton totaled just 11 at-bats in the eight previous games leading into Saturday and struck out in eight of those at-bats.
"You just don't know what the [right] amount of time is to get him straight, one day, two days, 77 hours, I don't know," Gonzalez said. "And it comes to a point where he's got 11 at-bats in 7-8 days, a week, that can't be any good either."