Uptons homer in ninth for wild walk-off win
B.J. ties it with leadoff homer, Justin wins it with second homer of game
ATLANTA -- When the Braves acquired B.J. Upton and Justin Upton this winter, they knew they had created a powerful lineup that could quickly erase late-inning deficits. At the same time, they knew they had set the stage for the two brothers to share some special experiences.
But that did not take anything away from the tremendous energy the Uptons created when they erased a one-run deficit with a pair of ninth-inning home runs that gave the Braves a 6-5 win over the Cubs on Saturday night at Turner Field.
B.J. opened the bottom of the ninth inning with a solo shot that tied the game and gave him his first home run as a Brave. Two batters later, Justin added to the greatness of his first week in Atlanta with a walk-off shot that soared over the center field wall and gave the Cubs even more reason to consider removing Carlos Marmol from their closer's role.
"I think right now, in my mind, it's No. 1," Justin said when asked where this ranked among his greatest memories. "It was exhilarating out there."
As Justin flipped his batting helmet and rounded third base, his proud older brother was anxiously racing toward the plate to enjoy their first walk-off celebration together.
"To have a night like tonight, where I hit the home run to tie it and he hits the one to win it, that is new to me," B.J. said. "It's a pretty good feeling."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Uptons are the first brothers in Major League history to hit a game-tying and walk-off home run in the same inning. Elias also revealed they were the first brothers to hit a home run in the same inning since Cal and Billy Ripken did it with the 1996 Orioles.
"I've never seen anything like that in the ninth inning," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I know this is special right now for the Upton family."
Manny and Yvonne Upton have been in Atlanta throughout this week to watch their sons play together for the first time. They have seen Justin get off to an incredible start with five home runs through his first five games. And they saw B.J. go hitless in his first 16 at-bats before being credited with an infield single in Saturday's seventh inning.
But this week will always be remembered as the one in which their sons teamed to produce a thrilling ninth-inning comeback with a couple of the most memorable home runs in their young careers.
"That's what you dream about -- to be on the field and have that big at-bat and to come through for your team," Justin said. "You can't beat that."
When the Braves acquired Justin Upton from the D-backs in January, they knew they had acquired a superstar-caliber outfielder who was determined to prove his former team had given up on him too soon. With five home runs through his first 18 at-bats, he has strengthened the belief that he is on a mission to prove his doubters wrong. He compiled 145 at-bats before hitting his fifth home run last year.
"I'm just going up there and trying to put together good at-bats," Justin said. "It's crazy that it has gone the way that it has. I'm just putting barrels on balls and they are leaving the yard."
Justin's third first-inning home run of the week erased the early 1-0 lead the Cubs took against Julio Teheran, who was unable to live up to the promise he showed while posting a 1.06 ERA in six Grapefruit League starts.
Making his fifth career start, Teheran proved inconsistent with his offspeed pitches and allowed five runs in five innings. Two of the eight hits he surrendered were home runs. Luis Valbuena took him deep with one-out in the fourth inning and Anthony Rizzo highlighted a three-run fifth inning with a two-run home run.
After carrying a four-run lead into the eighth inning, the Cubs proved to be the first victims of Atlanta's new quick-strike offense.
The potent Braves offense awoke with three runs in the eighth against Kyuji Fujikawa. Justin Upton's leadoff double was followed by consecutive singles from Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla. Ramiro Pena, who was playing for the injured Andrelton Simmons, cut Atlanta's deficit to one run with a two-run single.
After Eric O'Flaherty worked the Atlanta bullpen's fourth scoreless inning, B.J. showed the Atlanta fans his power potential by drilling Marmol's 3-1 fastball over the center field wall. Two batters later, Justin fell behind with a 1-2 count against the Cubs' closer before drilling a 94-mph fastball over the fence in center.
Each of Justin's first five home runs have been hit with two strikes. Entering this year, just 26.9 percent (29 of 108) of his home runs were hit with two strikes.
As he stood in the dugout, B.J. said he had a sense his younger brother might deliver the shot that allowed them to celebrate this special ninth inning together.
"The way he's been swinging the bat, it's definitely possible," B.J. said. "He gets behind in the count and is disciplined enough to lay off some pitches. Then he got a good pitch to hit and he didn't miss it."