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Upton's slam blasts Braves past Dodgers

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves finally had their regular lineup intact, but the player who had carried them to a good start came through again on Friday night.

Justin Upton hit a no-doubt grand slam in the sixth inning for his major league-best 14th homer and the road-weary Braves opened a homestand with an 8-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"That was one of the prettiest swings I've seen," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "As soon as he swung, you knew that ball was going to be out."

Upton, who set a Braves record with 12 homers in April, picked on a 1-1 fastball from Dodgers left-handed reliever Paco Rodriguez and turned a two-run deficit into a two-run lead with a drive deep into the left-field seats.

"He had nowhere to put me, I was looking to be aggressive in my zone," said Upton, who also drove in a run with a groundout. "He threw one over the middle that I could handle."

Rodriguez said, "I left the ball in the middle of the plate and he hit it. I didn't do my job."

Hyun-Jin Ryu left with the lead, but the Dodgers self-destructed in the sixth. Rodriguez (0-2) replaced Matt Guerrier after a pinch-single by Jordan Schafer and an error by Dodgers third baseman Luis Cruz, then walked Jason Heyward before giving up the grand slam.

"That was the worst thing I could do," Rodriguez said of the walk.

Upton made him pay.

"It was a good night and a great at-bat by Justin," Gonzalez said.

Heyward, playing in his first game after recovering from an appendectomy, was 2 for 4 with a double and drove in a run.

Scott Van Slyke hit two homers for the Dodgers, but Matt Kemp's hitting streak came to an end at 14 games after he grounded out with one on against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel to end the game.

With Heyward's return, the Braves finally had their full lineup. Brian McCann, who had shoulder surgery last October, missed the first five weeks of the season before returning May 6 and Heyward had been out more than three weeks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on April 22 while the Braves were in Colorado.

"I saw a lot of good at-bats," Gonzalez said. "It's a good sign to see with the lineup."

The Dodgers led 4-2 after Van Slyke, getting his first start in right field in place of Andre Ether, picked on Paul Maholm's first pitch of the sixth and hit a long drive into the seats just to the right of the batter's eye.

Van Slyke, called up from Class AAA Albuquerque on May 10, connected again in the eighth off reliever Eric O'Flaherty to cut the Braves' lead to three runs. This time, the ball went out just to the left of the dead center field.

The Braves had scored twice in the seventh, with Ramiro Pena's triple the big hit.

Maholm (5-4) allowed eight hits and four runs, two earned, in six innings. He struck out three and walked one. He made 95 pitches, 64 of them strikes.

Ryu walked five and struck out five in five innings, giving up five hits and two runs. He threw 100 pitches, 56 for strikes.

The Dodgers scored a run in the second when A.J. Ellis doubled, went to third on Luis Cruz's single and came home on a fielder's choice grounder by Dee Gordon.

But the Braves took the lead in the third and almost had a breakout inning against Ryu, leaving the bases loaded

Heyward followed Andrelton Simmons' leadoff single with a double. Justin Upton drove in the first run with a groundout, and Freddie Freeman drove in Heyward with a hit. A single by Chris Johnson and a walk loaded the bases, but Ryu got B.J. Upton to pop out to end the inning.

Ryu, who came in batting .267, helped himself in the fourth as the Dodgers scored two unearned runs to retake the lead. After a walk and an error by second baseman Dan Uggla, Ryu came through with a two-out, broken-bat, RBI single on a 3-2 pitch, and Carl Crawford followed with a run-scoring single.

NOTES: The Braves placed RHP Jordan Walden on the disabled list retroactive to May 12 because of shoulder inflammation. He had made 14 relief appearances and was 1-1 with a 4.85 ERA and 16 strikeouts and three walks in 13 innings. ... Dodgers 2B Mark Ellis, who was hitting .342 when he strained his right quad April 26, made his first minor league rehab appearance Friday, playing three innings for Class AA Chattanooga and going 0 for 1. ... Dodgers INF-OF Jerry Hairston, rehabilitating a groin strain in Arizona, developed knee discomfort. "He's on hold right now," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. Hairston hit .255 with five homers before going to the DL on May 7. ...LHP Jonny Venters returned to the Braves clubhouse a day after having Tommy John elbow surgery. The reliever hopes for the usual recovery time of about 12 months, but coming back from a second operation can be more difficult.
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