Baseball / Sports

Upton's homer helps Braves top Marlins

ATLANTA -- August ends soon. Justin Upton will miss it.

The Braves left fielder continued with his torrid month Friday night, cracking a two-run homer in the sixth inning before delivering a two-out single in the seventh that resulted in two more runs as the Braves beat Miami 5-2 in the first game of a weekend series.

The victory was the Braves' third straight and 10th in their last 14 games while the Marlins dropped to 2-5 on their current road trip. Closer Craig Kimbrel recorded his 40th save, but not without a nifty 3-63 double play for his first two outs.

Upton's three RBIs (one run in the seventh was unearned) gave him 28 RBIs in 25 games this month, which has been the most productive one of his eight-year career. Eight of his 26 home runs -- 31 percent -- came come in August.

Atlanta starter Ervin Santana, riding a six-game win streak at Turner Field, was not around to collect on the victory, forced out after six innings with a 104-pitch count. Not his sharpest outing, Santana still limited the Marlins to one run on five singles, despite four walks, while striking out seven. He departed with a 2-1 lead.

In the telling seventh inning, Jason Heyward, hitting just .154 against left-handed this year, put the Braves up 3-2 with a clutch RBI single off lefty Mike Dunn. After Andrelton Simmons opened the inning with a perfect bunt down the third-base line, pinch-hitter Ramiro Pena singled off first baseman Garrett Jones' glove, sending Simmons to third.

Facing a drawn-in infield, Heyward fouled off a pair of 2-2 pitches before serving a single through the left side, marking the second straight inning the Braves reclaimed the lead. Then with two outs and two on, Upton worked a count full against hard-throwing Sam Dyson before singling up the middle.

Heyward scored on the play and Emilio Bonifacio raced home after center fielder Marcell Ozuna let the ball get by him, the unearned run make the lead 5-2.

No sooner had Santana departed after six than Marlins pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin cracked an opposite-field home run off reliever David Carpenter for a 2-2 tie. The home run was just Valdespin's third of the season, coming after Carpenter had allowed just one run in his previous 10 appearances.

The Braves first claimed the lead in the sixth with the least- and most-expected candidates. Freddie Freeman, who entered the night hitting .059 against Miami this year and who had struck out in his previous two plate appearance, walked to lead off the inning.

Upton then sent a 91-mph Tom Koehler fastball into the stands in center field for a 2-1 lead. The home run was his 17th at Turner Field.

The Marlins only reached Santana in the sixth, following a pair of one-out singles by Casey McGehee and Jones. Ozuna then served a soft double that landed just inside the right field line, scoring McGehee from second. The Braves threw out Jones at the plate on a Heyward-to-Tommy La Stella relay but the 1-0 lead gave Miami the important first run against a team with well-profiled offensive shortcomings.

The game remained scoreless through the first five innings. The Braves advanced runners to second base in each of the first three but stranded all of them there. The closest either team came to drawing early blood came in the fourth, when Jones flied out to the warning track in center to lead off the inning and Evan Gattis flied out to the warning track in left to open the bottom of the inning.

Santana worked into immediate trouble, walking the bases full with one out in a 32-pitch first inning. After a visit from pitching coach Roger McDowell, he promptly reversed course, striking out Jones on three pitches and inducing a soft line-out to right from Ozuna.

(c)2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

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