Upton gave Atlanta the lead with a sixth-inning grand slam and the Braves finally unveiled their full-strength lineup, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-5 on Friday night.
Upton drove in five runs hitting behind Jason Heyward, who had two hits with a RBI and scored two runs in his first game back after having his appendix removed April 22.
The homer was Upton’s majors-leading 14th of the season, a high shot that appeared bound for the upper deck before landing deep in the left-field seats.
“I got that one pretty good,” he said.
Just pretty good?
“As soon as he took that swing, I knew that ball was going to be out of the ballpark,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. “That was one of the prettiest swings I’ve seen put on a baseball.”
It was the first time this season the Braves had Heyward in the lineup along with catcher Brian McCann, who missed the first 30 games while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Atlanta also had first baseman Freddie Freeman miss two weeks in April with a strained oblique.
“We’ve played 40 games and it’s the first time we’ve had the lineup we talked about all winter,” Gonzalez said before the game.
Scott Van Slyke hit two homers for the Dodgers, who led 4-2 before Upton’s third career grand slam. Los Angeles had won four of its previous five games — the team’s best stretch since early April.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was disappointed by his pitching staff’s seven walks and errors by third baseman Luis Cruz and left fielder Carl Crawford — each on line drives hit by Andrelton Simmons — that led to three unearned runs.
“Too many walks. Giving too many free runners,” Mattingly said. “And we’ve got to catch the baseball. That’s all there is to it. You’ve got to catch the baseball.”
Paul Maholm (5-4) allowed eight hits and four runs — two earned — in six innings, and Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 12th save.
Upton’s grand slam made Maholm a winner.
“I’ll take it every time I start,” said Maholm of Upton’s big homer. “I’ll have to make sure I compensate Justin pretty well for that.”
Dodgers rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu overcame a career-high five walks to give up only two runs in five innings, but relievers Matt Guerrier and Poco Rodriguez (0-2) quickly blew the 4-2 lead in the sixth.
After Guerrier gave up a single to pinch-hitter Jordan Schafer, Cruz couldn’t handle Simmons’ sharp liner, an error that left runners on first and second. Rodriguez walked Heyward to load the bases before Upton’s homer deep into the left-field seats.
Crawford missed Simmons’ line drive for another error during Atlanta’s two-run seventh. Ramiro Pena, who hit a two-out triple, scored on the error and Heyward added a run-scoring single off Ronald Belisario.
Ryu failed to last at least six innings for the first time in nine starts. He gave up five hits with five walks and five strikeouts.
“All day (Friday) I was just a little off-balance,” Ryu said through an interpreter. “I personally feel bad that I couldn’t go longer as a starter. I feel bad for my teammates that I couldn’t stay out there a little longer. ... Unfortunately my balls weren’t going in the zone today.”
A.J. Ellis doubled and scored on Dee Gordon’s fielder’s choice grounder for the Dodgers in the second. Crawford and Ryu had run-scoring singles in the fourth.
Ryu had strong defensive support in the fifth. Van Slyke, making his first start of the season in right field, had a sliding catch of Chris Johnson’s fly ball near the foul line. Matt Kemp then made a diving grab of McCann’s fly ball in the left-center gap.
Mattingly said he didn’t second-guess his decision to replace Ryu, who needed 100 pitches to make it through five innings.
“I feel fine with it,” Mattingly said. “He was done. He was at 100 and he struggled the whole day. That wasn’t a decision. It wasn’t a tough one to make. At 100, he’s pretty much out of gas.”
Slumping Braves center fielder B.J. Upton was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, dropping his batting average to .141 as he hit eighth for the first time this season. He drew scattered boos when he popped out to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in the second inning and an even louder serenade when his bases-loaded popup to Punto at second base ended the third inning.
Kemp, who grounded out to end the game, was 0-for-5, ending his 14-game hitting streak, which began on April 30.
NOTES: Braves Hall of Famer Hank Aaron attended batting practice. ... Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalyn, watched the game from their usual seats near the Braves dugout. ... Dodgers INF Jerry Hairston Jr., on the 15-day DL with a left groin strain, was examined by a doctor in Arizona on Friday for a sore left knee. Mattingly called the problem “a little bit of a setback.” ... RHP Jordan Walden was placed on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation to clear a spot for Heyward. ... Braves RHP Kris Medlen and Dodgers LHP Chris Capuano each will look for his second win as the series continues tonight. Medlen is only 1-5 but has a 3.44 ERA.