B.J. Upton hopes hitting leadoff leads to hits
ATLANTA -- B.J. Upton's first four games with the Braves did not go according to plan. But the veteran center fielder got a chance to shake things up when he was moved to the leadoff spot to replace the injured Andrelton Simmons on Saturday night.
The move proved to be beneficial, as Upton's presence at the top of the lineup allowed him to experience something special. His game-tying homer to open the bottom of the ninth set the stage for his younger brother Justin Upton to give the Braves a 6-5 win over the Cubs with the walk-off home run over the wall in center.
B.J.'s home run was his first with the Braves, who signed him to a franchise record five-year, $75.25 million contract in November. Two innings earlier, he had notched his first hit with an infield single that snapped the 0-for-16 stretch that began his career in Atlanta.
"We're winning, and that's the main thing," B.J. said. "I'll get it together and start hitting the ball a little bit better. But overall, the goal is to win."
Upton is certainly not the first player to experience a slow start after signing a large contract the previous offseason. Even the calm, cool and collected Greg Maddux said he felt added pressure after he signed as a free agent with the Braves before the start of the 2003 season.
"His at-bats just kept getting better and better through the course of the week," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think after the chopper base hit, he got the curse off his back a little bit."
Simmons is expected to return to the lineup by Monday. At that point, B.J. will likely return to the lineup's fifth spot.