J-Up's homer pace earns place in Braves' lore
ATLANTA -- When Justin Upton homered against the Yankees during a Grapefruit League game on March 16, Braves hitting coach Greg Walker sensed the talented left fielder had found his swing. But nobody could have expected Upton to do what he has done through the first two weeks of this season.
With his eighth-inning home run in Tuesday night's 6-3 win over the Royals, Upton became the first player in Braves history to hit eight home runs through the team's first 13 games of a season. Eddie Mathews (1959), Chipper Jones (1998) and Andruw Jones (2006) had previously held the team's record, with eight home runs through the first 16 games of a season.
Upton is the first Major Leaguer to hit eight homers in his team's first 13 games since Alex Rodriguez totaled nine home runs through the first 13 games the Yankees played in 2007.
"He's one of the most talented guys on earth," Walker said. "There is no question about that. I love his work ethic. I love the disposition he brings to the park every day. He's a real bright guy when he is talking about hitting. But as smart as he is and as good as he is, he is still in that stage of his career where he is learning to manage his own game."
Upton hit a career-high 31 home runs before finishing fourth in the balloting for the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2011. His home run total dipped to 17 as he endured an injury-plagued season with the D-backs last year.
Upton hit his first home run last year in Arizona's 17th game and did not hit his eighth until July 20, his club's 93rd game. The 25-year-old outfielder had never hit more than five home runs through his team's first 13 games of a season.