video thumbnail

NYM@ATL: Uggla wallops a two-run homer to left

ATLANTA -- It was not shocking to see Dan Uggla express some relief after he finally centered one of those R.A. Dickey knuckleballs that had baffled him over the years. But it was somewhat surprising to learn the real reason he returned to the Braves' dugout and said, "I finally got one."

While Uggla was certainly pleased to record what stands as his only hit in 24 career at-bats against Dickey, he seemed more relieved about the fact that it resulted in him ending the longest start-of-the-season home run drought he has experienced in his career.

But more importantly, Uggla's two-run home run off Dickey capped a four-run fifth inning that allowed the Braves to continue surging with a 14-6 pounding of the Mets at a rain-soaked Turner Field on Wednesday afternoon.

"I think we're going to score some runs this year," said Freddie Freeman, who also collected his first home run as the Braves scored at least six runs for the sixth time in an eight-game span that has included seven victories.

The feeling about the Braves has certainly changed since they began the season with four consecutive losses. They have totaled 55 runs in their past eight games and now find themselves with the same record as the division-rival Mets, who had claimed victories in the first four games of the season series.

"They just went out and beat us in every part of the game," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "There was nothing that we did today better than them. They capitalized on our mistakes, they pitched a little better than we did and they hit a lot better than we did."

With the teams combining for 30 hits and both starting pitchers -- Jair Jurrjens and Dickey -- exiting in the fifth inning, this was certainly not a good day to be a pitcher. But after actually dreaming about going through most of the season's first two weeks without a home run, Uggla was appreciative that he took advantage of offensive-friendly conditions.

Uggla ended his 0-for-23 skid against Dickey by hitting a first-pitch knuckleball over the left-field wall with two outs in the fifth inning. The two-run shot came in his 12th game and 43rd at-bat of the season.

A quick look at Uggla's history shows why he was getting antsy. He had homered in the first or second game of each of the previous five seasons. His longest season-opening drought before this year occurred in 2006, when he notched his first home run in his 28th career at-bat.

"It's a huge load off your shoulders, especially when you are kind of known for being a power hitter," Uggla said. "Once it doesn't come early, you start pressing and start trying for it. You start chasing balls out of the zone. Then you've got to regroup and try to find your normal swing again."

This was a surprisingly productive 24-hour stretch for Uggla. The leadoff walk he drew against Johan Santana in Tuesday night's pivotal five-run second inning also proved unexpected. He had totaled one hit and one walk in 22 previous plate appearances against Santana.

"The numbers are not in [Uggla's] equation," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He wants to play and he wants to contribute. He doesn't care if he's 0-for-100 against him."

Juan Francisco got the Braves rolling in this series finale with a two-run second-inning shot that gave him home runs in consecutive at-bats dating back to Tuesday night. Riding the momentum of Tuesday's two-hit performance, Freeman further distanced himself from his early-season struggles with an opposite-field two-run home run that chased Dickey with one out in the fifth inning. The three home runs surrendered were two fewer than the knuckleballer had allowed in his previous 51 1/3 innings against the Braves.

"It was tough conditions today, but that can't be an excuse," Dickey said. "I still have to find a way to keep us in the ballgame, and today I didn't give us a very good chance. When the balls are moist like that, it can cause a problem."

Likewise, Jurrjens was not searching for any excuses after surrendering seven hits and issuing four walks in just four innings. His disappointing 89-pitch outing concluded when the Mets began the fifth inning with three consecutive singles.

Jurrjens believes he has been putting too much pressure on himself since his struggles began in Spring Training. With this in mind, he might want to take the approach Uggla did as his homerless drought mounted.

"You just take your good swing," Uggla said. "You don't hit home runs when you're trying." Comments