Braves flex muscle, play long ball in win over Phillies
ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves' beefed-up offense lived up to the spring hype, with Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies the season's first victims.
Justin Upton, acquired in a big offseason trade, hit one of Atlanta's three home runs and the Braves opened with a 7-5 victory over the Phillies on Monday night before a sellout crowd of 51,456 at Turner Field.
Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla also homered off Hamels, who was victimized by the long ball in his first Opening Day start
"We've got guys one through eight [in the order] who can really swing the bats," Braves manager Fred Gonzalez said. "Freeman had a great night. Justin the same thing."
Freeman, who homered with one on in the first inning, had three hits and drove in three runs as he built off a spring in which he hit .342 with seven homers.
"I think the sky is the limit with him," Gonzalez said.
It was Upton, acquired from Arizona, who drew even more cheers with a memorable debut home run.
"You always want to get off to a good start," he said. "It felt good. The crowd was great."
Brother B.J. Upton, signed as a free agent, was hitless in his first game for the Braves, but it didn't matter. His new team had plenty of offense.
Newcomers Chris Johnson and Gerald Laird joined the hit parade with two hits each.
"We've got an extremely talented team," Uggla said. "We wanted to come out and get off to a good start and we did."
The only bright spot for the Phillies was Chase Utley, who had a homer, triple and single a year after missing the first half of the 2012 season because of knee problems.
Hamels lasted five innings and gave up five runs -- all except one the result of a homer. He allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out five while making 89 pitches.
"They're going to hit a lot of home runs," Hamels said. "To keep them from hitting home runs, you have to keep the ball down. I wasn't able to do that."
The Braves needed a good night at the plate.
Staked to a 4-0 lead, starter Tim Hudson didn't last long enough to get the win, allowing six hits and three runs in 4 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out three, throwing 90 pitches in his sixth career start on Opening Day.
Luis Avilan got out of a bases-loaded jam after relieving Hudson and was credited with the victory. Craig Kimbrel retired the Phillies in order in the ninth inning for the save.
Freeman's first-inning homer came with two outs and followed a walk to Jason Heyward. The first baseman picked on a 2-and-1 fastball and sent a long drive into the Braves' bullpen behind the fence in right-center field.
Then Uggla, who came in with a .145 career average against Hamels, got the green light on a 3-and-0 pitch leading off the second inning and lined a homer into the left field stands.
The Braves went up by four runs in the third inning as Freeman's two-out single scored Andrelton Simmons, who led off with a double. But the Phillies got that run back quickly when Utley connected on a 1-and-2 pitch from Hudson leading off the fourth and sent his 200th career homer over the center-field fence.
Hudson didn't make it through the fifth, and the Braves were fortunate to escape still holding a lead. Utley drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single, but Avilan came in and held the Phillies right there. The left-hander struck out Ryan Howard and got Domonic Brown to ground out after an intentional walk.
"Luis Avilan did a tremendous job," Gonzalez said.
Then Upton had his turn taking Hamels deep, sending a 1-and-2 pitch that caught too much of the plate over the left-field fence.
"He was definitely having trouble with his command," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel of Hamels. "He was getting the ball in the big part of the plate. ... But give them credit. They were hitting the ball hard."
The Braves added two runs in the sixth inning as reliever Chad Durbin couldn't get an out and that was enough as the Phillies managed just single runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
NOTES: Former third baseman Chipper Jones, who played all 19 of his seasons with the Braves, got a long and loud standing ovation as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch. "I miss it today, but I won't miss it tomorrow," the future Hall of Famer said of his first Opening Day as a retiree. ... Phillies SS Jimmie Rollins made his 13th straight start on Opening Day for the Phillies, breaking a tie for the team record at his position with Larry Bowa (1970-81). ... Center fielder Ben Revere hit leadoff for the Phillies rather than Rollins, who batted second. ... Hamels' start ended Roy Halladay's streak of 10 consecutive Opening Day outings. Halladay, who will pitch Wednesday in the middle game of the three-game series, started for the Phillies the past three years after opening seven straight seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays. ... The Braves and Phillies, who are off on Tuesday, close the season with a three-game series in Atlanta. ... The Braves had a 12-6 edge in the season series last year.