The Atlanta Braves‘ Justin Upton got off to a roaring start this season, blasting six home runs in his first seven games with the team and finishing the month of April with 12 homers and a .298 batting average.
But since then, offensive production has been hard to come by for Upton. Before last night’s game against the Colorado Rockies, he had hit just four home runs since April, and his batting average had dropped as low as .239 (after an 0-for-4 performance on June 19 against the New York Mets).
Upton followed up his sizzling-hot April with a .211 batting average in May and .226 in June, hitting one and two home runs in each of those months, respectively. As great as the Braves’ offseason acquisition seemed in April, he was equally bad in the two months that followed.
Then the month of July hit, and as the weather began to heat up, so too did Upton — albeit very slowly.
He logged a .292 batting average for the month, but still only hit one home run and drove in just 11. Freddi Gonzalez elected to sit Upton on July 13 and 14, the last two games leading up to the All-Star break. The Braves outfielder suffered a mild calf strain on July 11 against the Cincinnati Reds and Gonzalez did not want to take any chances with him. This meant that Upton got a full week’s worth of rest.
However, upon returning to action after the break, Upton promptly went 5-for-25 at the plate from July 19 through July 24 — and then Tim Hudson went down with a season-ending injury.
Sometimes a player and a team needs something to overcome; they need some form of motivation and a reason to persevere. It seems the injury has given the Braves just that. The offense has kicked into high gear since the veteran pitcher broke his ankle on July 24, and Justin Upton has helped lead the charge.
The Braves have gone 7-1 since that fateful day at Citi Field, and in his last seven games, Upton has batted .400 with two home runs and six RBIs – the kind of production the Braves expected to see out of him all season.
Combine his resurgence with the production from key players like Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, the Braves now find themselves 11.5 games up on the second-place Washington Nationals in the NL East.
It seems Upton has gotten his season back on track, and he may well have Hudson to thank for it. But, the real point is that if the Braves continue in this fashion, the division will be all but statistically wrapped up — and the team may even be able to push for baseball’s best record by season’s end.