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August 6, 2013

What You Need to Know

Atlanta All Alone

by Daniel Rathman


The Monday Takeaway
Remember the Justin Upton who cranked five homers in his first five games of the 2013 season, then tacked on a sixth in game seven, ran his tally up to nine in game 13, and was on top of the league with a dozen through game 23? He was gone for a while, and he rarely called home. But if the past handful of days is any indication, he has returned.

Upton swatted his 13th big fly of the year on May 13, his 14th on May 17, his 15th on June 12, and his 16th on July 9. The counter stayed stuck on 16 for the rest of July. After hitting 12 homers in the first month, he hit only four over the next two-and-a-half. Upton’s OPS tumbled from 1.040 on May 13 to .791 on July 31. And though the Braves withstood the slump for a while, they scuffled to a 23-25 record between May 26 and July 25.

The Braves warmed back up before Upton’s bat did, winning their last five games in July, including a two-game sweep of the Cardinals and victories in the first three contests of a four-tilt set with the Rockies. Upton chipped in a couple of doubles on July 30 and three singles on July 31, foreshadowing the fireworks to come after a false alarm earlier in the month.

As soon as the calendar flipped to August, the power switch for Upton’s bat flipped back to “on.” He clubbed two homers in an 11-2 rout that completed the four-game sweep of the Rockies on August 1. Then, after letting his teammates do the heavy lifting in the series opener against the Phillies, he homered and drew two walks in the middle match and sent Charlie Manuel’s squad off with two knocks and a walk in the finale.

Another series, another sweep. A 10-game winning streak, and a 12 ½-game division lead.

On Monday, as the Braves kicked off a quick three-game trip to the nation’s capital, Upton packed his punch for the flight north. Mike Minor allowed more hits and walks than Stephen Strasburg and struck out only three batters to Strasburg’s nine, but the Nationals’ persistent struggle to drive in runners in scoring position helped him to match Strasburg in the most important column in the box score: runs. They were both charged with two.

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Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (08/06)
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