Atlanta Braves left fielder Justin Upton (8) looks on from the dugout during the fifth inning against the Miami Marlins on May 31 in Miami. (USA Today Sports: Steve Mitchell)
ATLANTA — Maybe a trip back to the ballpark Justin Upton called home will get the Atlanta Braves left fielder out of his road funk.
Upton is hitting just .194 with three home runs, seven RBIs and an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .604 in 24 games away from Turner Field.
Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks the winter before the 2013 season, Upton was 4-for-5 with a double, home run and two RBIs in his first game back at Chase Field last May.
The right-handed hitter finished 5-for-10 in that three-game series and that kind of success would be a major improvement from his road work this season as the Braves and Diamondbacks play three games this weekend.
Upton has put up impressive numbers at Turner Field this year, giving him a solid season despite his struggles away from Atlanta.
After going 1-for-4 on Wednesday against Seattle at home, Upton is hitting .294 with 13 homers, 33 RBIs and an OPS of .928 overall. But that’s only because he is batting .384 with 10 homers, 26 RBIs and an OPS of 1.222 in 31 games at Atlanta.
“I’m seeing the ball real well at Turner Field right now,” Upton said. “The times I’ve stunk have been on the road. The times I’ve hit the ball well I’ve been here. I think it’s a coincidence.”
“Maybe we’ll go on the road and just wear white uniforms and trick him that way,” manager Fredi Gonzalez joked recently.
The drastic difference in home-road split is in complete contrast to Upton’s first season with the Braves.
Last year, there was virtually no difference where Upton played. He hit .264 with 13 homers and 34 homers in Atlanta, and .263 with 14 homers and 36 RBIs on the road.
The big difference last year, of course, was by month.
Upton hit 12 homers in April, setting a Braves record, and eight more in August. He went deep just seven times in the other four months combined.
PLAYERS OF NOTE
—LHP Mike Minor struck out a season-best 10 while allowing five hits and a run over seven innings Wednesday in the hard-luck 2-0 loss to Seattle that dropped his record to 2-4. Minor, who threw 109 pitches, walked three and lowered his ERA to 3.07 with a fifth straight quality start.
—RHP Julio Teheran will face the Diamondbacks for the fourth time when the Braves open a three-game series at Arizona on Friday night. He is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA, striking out 14 and walking three over 16 innings in the previous games. Teheran won his past three starts this year, improving to 5-3 with a 1.83 ERA while allowing just two runs over 22 1/3 innings.
—RHP Jordan Walden threw his first full bullpen session at Turner Field on Tuesday since going on the disabled list retroactive to May 5 with a strained left hamstring and is scheduled to begin a minor league rehab with Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday. He will likely need a couple of rehab games and then be activated if all goes well. Walden made 14 appearances this season for Atlanta and has a 2.92 ERA with a save, 19 strikeouts and six walks in 12 1/3 innings.
—2B Tyler Pastornicky, sent down to Triple-A last week when 2B Tommy La Stella was promoted, had two hits in each of his first four games with Gwinnett before going hitless on Tuesday. He was hitting .381 with a double. Pastornicky, who underwent ACL knee surgery last year, had just 35 at-bats before being sent down, batting .200.
—LHP Jonny Venters, hoping to make it back to the Braves bullpen at some point this season, is throwing lightly again after being shut down in his rehab for 10 days because of sore in his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery for the second time last May. “I’m easing back into it,” Venters said.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“I used to always check the score and stuff, but I don’t worry about it anymore when I’m pitching, It’s just me against the batter. I don’t think about being behind or ahead.” — Braves LHP Mike Minor, after a 2-0 loss to Seattle on Wednesday.