Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren must have felt like the smartest man in the world on Saturday night.
Trailing 5-4 at home against the Chicago Cubs, brothers B.J. and Justin Upton, who were playing just their fifth game in a Braves uniform, hit game-tying and winning solo home runs, respectively, to notch an improbable 6-5 victory.*
(*- Improbable to everyone but Cubs fans, who have gotten used to Marmol’s habit of giving up late runs.)
With two swings of the bat, the Brothers Upton validated the two biggest moves the Braves made in the offseason. All winter, there were questions — valid ones, at that — about how the moves would affect the Braves’ lineup. Would they strike out too much or hit for power too little? Was dropping Martin Prado for Justin Upton going to come back to sting the Braves?
Through five games, Justin Upton has five home runs. B.J. went hitless in his first four games, but had two hits (including the big homer in the ninth) in Saturday night’s win. Their defense has been nearly flawless, and their range in the outfield has been as good as advertised.
For comparison’s sake, here are Prado’s stats so far this season, courtesy of ESPN:
A GM that is oft-criticized for moves he made in the past deserves to get a lot of credit for acquiring the Uptons, even if our sample size — only five games — is still small. It’s been a ground-shaking start to 2013 for Braves Country, and the Uptons have been the epicenter.
On Sunday, the Braves find themselves in position, yet again, to sweep a series. They failed to do it in their first series of the season against the Phillies, but they can notch their first sweep of the year against the stumbling Cubs. The Braves have been businesslike in the way they’ve won the first two games of each series, eliminating the chance of a rubber game. Down the road, the roster will be better and healthier for it — manager Fredi Gonzalez will have more chances to rest starters that way.
Take a bow, Mr. Wren. Everything has gone exactly as planned so far.
According to ELIAS, Uptons are the first brothers in @mlb history to hit game-tying and walk-off HR in the same inning.
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) April 7, 2013