video thumbnail

Uggla crushes a home run in the eighth

ATLANTA -- As he has struggled to find consistency during his first six weeks with the Braves, Dan Uggla has shown great effort on a nightly basis and occasionally managed to blur his offensive struggles with a timely home run.

While helping the Braves extend their recent success against the Phillies with a 3-2 win in Sunday's Delta Civil Rights Game at Turner Field, Uggla damaged Roy Halladay with his hustle and then conquered him with a decisive eighth-inning homer.

"It was a fun game," Braves starting pitcher Tim Hudson said. "It shook out the way I think most people were anticipating. It was a close game until the very end. It was pretty much anybody's ballgame until the last out."

Once closer Craig Kimbrel produced a scoreless ninth, Uggla could fully savor the contributions he made in this victory that gave the Braves their second series win over the Phillies in consecutive weekends. They now stand 3 1/2 games behind the front-running Phillies in the National League East standings.

"We know they've got good pitching," Braves utility man Eric Hinske said. "We're not intimidated. To be the best, you've got to beat the best. It's fun playing against these guys."

The Braves have certainly earned the respect of Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.

"I think our team and the Braves are very similar," Manuel said. "When they get everybody back they're going to have some pop, and when we get [Chase] Utley back we're going to be better."

As this tight series finale unfolded, it was fitting that some of the most hard-nosed members of the Braves took center stage. Hudson produced seven solid innings and also displayed an aggressive take-out slide of his good friend Pete Orr after hitting a single off Halladay in the third inning.

"He plays the game like he's in Little League," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He has fun. He's a position player that just happens to pitch."

Hudson's efforts set the stage for Uggla, who helped the Braves score their first two runs while hustling from first to third base on Hinske's two singles. But certainly the most memorable contribution came when he drilled Halladay's 3-2 fastball over the left-center-field wall to give the Braves a lead they would not relinquish.

"I knew he didn't want to walk me and put me on base," Uggla said. "I was just going to try to hit off the heater. If he threw me the heater, I was going to be on time."

While he has hit just hit just .205 through the first 42 games of the season, Uggla has managed to deliver many of his seven homers in timely situations. He delivered the second of two eighth-inning homers that provided a 2-1 win over the Brewers on April 4. Nearly two weeks later he drilled a game-tying, eighth-inning homer that helped the Braves complete a three-game sweep with a 10-inning win over the Giants.

"Any time you can hit a homer, it's not a bad thing," said Uggla, who was acquired from the Marlins in November with the hope that his power would prove valuable in games like this one.

Uggla's homer allowed the Braves to beat Halladay for the first time in his five career starts against them. The two-time Cy Young Award winner had completed 16 scoreless innings in his only two previous career starts at Turner Field.

Halladay might have been able to keep that scoreless streak alive if not for Uggla, who certainly didn't play like a guy who was burdened by the fact that he had just four hits and 11 strikeouts in his previous 34 at-bats entering this series finale.

Instead, Uggla looked like a man on a mission as he went from first to third base when Hinske followed Uggla's broken-bat single with one of his own in the fourth inning. Two batters later, Freddie Freeman produced an RBI infield single that glanced off Halladay's glove as he tried to grab it behind his back.

"[Uggla] isn't doing what he wants at the plate right now, but he shows perseverance and hard work," Hinske said. "He's never going to stop working at his craft."

After drawing a sixth-inning leadoff walk, Uggla once again aggressively raced to third base on Hinske's single to shallow right field. Two batters later, Freeman drilled a game-tying sacrifice fly to deep left field.

"If I can get myself on base, sometimes I can help the ballclub hustling, going first to third or maybe turning an out into a hit somehow," Uggla said. "That's just the way you play the game. I just haven't been getting on base very much."

Hudson preserved a one-run lead and kept the Phillies scoreless until John Mayberry Jr. drilled a two-out, two-run homer in the sixth inning. Mayberry walked in his first two plate appearances of the afternoon, and the Braves' hurler was well aware of the fact he had also tagged him for a two-run homer in last year's regular-season finale.

"It was pretty disappointing," Hudson said. "It was late in the game and we were starting to run out of outs with one of the best guys in the league on the other side. We were very fortunate to tie it up. I knew after we tied it up, we would win the game."

Hudson provided a brief scare when he briefly favored his right leg and tried to stretch it out after coming off the mound to field a Ryan Howard grounder in the fourth inning. The veteran hurler said his right hip popped and compared it to popping his knuckles or back.

When Gonzalez went to the mound to check on Hudson, he knew there was no way his hurler was going to exit the game. Likewise, the Braves' skipper spent the past couple weeks knowing offensive frustrations were not going to prevent Uggla from continuing to be a hard-nosed asset to the team.

"They're hard-nosed, blue collar, 'Here it is, I'm going to lay it on the line every night,'" Gonzalez said of Uggla and Hudson. "It brings some toughness to the team, which is good." Comments