The Atlanta Braves entered this season surrounded by a palpable level of excitement after acquiring the Upton brothers.
It hasn't taken long for those moves to pay off.
After hitting tying and winning homers, B.J. and Justin look to lead Atlanta to a three-game sweep of the visiting Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
The Braves appeared headed for defeat Saturday, trailing 5-1 in the eighth inning, but stormed back for a 6-5 win. Entering the ninth down a run, B.J. led off with a homer off Carlos Marmol and Justin followed one out later with another home run off the embattled closer, leading to a wild celebration at home plate.
"We'd never dreamed of being on the same team, much less coming out here and doing that," B.J. said. "It's exciting."
The Uptons became the 25th tandem of brothers to homer in the same game, helping Atlanta move to 5-1 for the first time since 2009. The Braves opened 7-1 in 2007.
"Ah, man, I think right now, in my mind, it's No. 1," said Justin, who also homered in the first. "It was exhilarating out there. We had a great time with it."
While B.J. entered Saturday 0 for 14 with nine strikeouts, Justin is batting .389 with five homers and seven RBIs.
The Uptons, though, could have a hard time building on their big night against Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00 ERA), who turned in a masterful performance on opening day. The right-hander allowed two hits with one walk and nine strikeouts over eight scoreless innings of a 3-1 victory at Pittsburgh on Monday.
"That was probably as good of a game that he's pitched in his starting career," manager Dale Sveum said.
Samardzija entered this season with an 11-16 record and a 4.30 ERA in his first 33 career starts.
"He can go to 95-97 (mph), then drop that breaking ball in there at 80," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's always a challenge, trying to cover close to 20 mph."
Samardzija's performance shouldn't come as much of a surprise to Atlanta, which hasn't been able to figure him out. He won both his starts against the Braves last year while compiling a 1.29 ERA and striking out 18 over 14 innings.
Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward have gone 2 for 14 and 1 for 6, respectively, against Samardzija, though both have homered off him. Freddie Freeman is 0 for 6, and he won't get a chance to improve that number as the Braves have placed him on the disabled list with a strained right oblique.
While things could be looking up for Samardzija, the same cannot be said for Marmol.
He's allowed five runs, six hits, two walks and hit a batter in three relief appearances spanning 1 2-3 innings, and the Cubs (2-3) could be forced to go in a different direction at closer.
"We're definitely going to talk about it," Sveum said. "I don't know whether it's mechanical, the arm angle or what. When he throws strikes, he's getting hit now, too."
The Braves give the ball to Tim Hudson (0-0, 6.23), who's looking to get on track following a shaky debut. The right-hander gave up three runs, six hits and three walks before being removed with one out in the fifth inning of a 7-5 win over Philadelphia on Monday.
Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons sat out Saturday with a sprained left thumb, and he'll miss this contest as well.
|March 31, 2013||Scott Baker||60-Day DL||Strained right elbow|
|March 31, 2013||Darwin Barney||15-Day DL||Left knee laceration|
|March 27, 2013||Arodys Vizcaino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Ian Stewart||15-Day DL||Strained left quad|
|March 22, 2013||Matt Garza||15-Day DL||Strained left lat|
|March 03, 2013||Matt Garza||Day-to-Day||Strained left lat|
|April 06, 2013||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Sprained left thumb|
|March 27, 2013||Jonny Venters||15-Day DL||Sprained left elbow|
|March 22, 2013||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Brian McCann||15-Day DL||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Paul Janish||15-Day DL||Recovery from left shoulder surgery|
ATLANTA (AP) -- For the first four innings, Tim Hudson wondered if Jeff Samardzija would be too tough to beat.
Luckily for Hudson, the hard-throwing Samardzija began having control problems, and the Atlanta Braves took advantage of the situation.
"You know you're not going to get much against a pitcher like Samardzija," Hudson said. "He was throwing some cheese in there."
Hudson pitched six-plus strong innings and added an RBI and Ramiro Pena hit a two-run single to help the Braves beat the Chicago Cubs 5-1 on Sunday.
The three-game sweep ended a 5-1 homestand for Atlanta, which got a solo homer from Dan Uggla in the eighth off Hisanori Takahashi .
Chicago ended a six-game road trip with four losses as it heads to Wrigley Field for the home opener against Milwaukee on Monday.
Hudson (1-0) allowed three hits, one run and two walks in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out seven while improving to 3-1 in seven career starts against the Cubs with a 3.12 ERA.
"That's Hudson," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. "He changes speeds. He's got a slider, cutter, curveball, split. His fastball is really deceiving sneaky and obviously he can get groundballs. That's Hudson."
Samardzija (1-1) set a career high with 13 strikeouts, but gave up four hits, four runs and four walks in 5 2-3 innings.
"He's got good stuff and he's a great athlete and one heck of a competitor," Uggla said after going 0 for 3 against Samardzija with two strikeouts.
"Everybody knows that. He kept us off balance. You've got to respect his 97 (mph fastball). We were able to scratch a couple (of runs) across, and Huddy was able to hold them right there."
The Braves, without injured starters Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons , had struck out 10 times by the end of the fourth, but they got an offensive lift for the second straight game from Ramiro Pena , a reserve shortstop batting in the No. 8 spot.
In the fifth, Samardzija retired the first two batters before Pena doubled and Hudson walked. With B.J. Upton batting, a wild pitch advanced both runners. Samardzija then walked Upton on a wild pitch that scored Pena and made it 1-1.
In the sixth, Justin Upton whiffed for the 13th strikeout, but Samardzija loaded the bases with two outs on Uggla's fielder's choice and Juan Francisco 's single before he hit Chris Johnson with a pitch.
Samardzija was unhappy with home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, running toward the plate to argue that the ball had missed Johnson.
"I don't know," Samardzija said. "I'll have to go back and check the replay. We were just trying to go up and in, and I guess it grazed him."
Pena, the next batter, singled into right field to drive in two runs to make it 3-1 and chase Samardzija. Hudson followed with an RBI single off reliever Michael Bowden to give the Braves a 4-1 lead.
"Our bench is so deep that you can run Pena in there and not lose a beat," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "And put Chris Johnson at first base and still put a pretty good team on the field. That's a sign of a good baseball team. Well-rounded."
Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the first when David DeJesus doubled off the right-field wall, moved to third on Starlin Castro 's flyout and scored on Anthony Rizzo 's RBI groundout.
Luis Avilan , who replaced Hudson with runners on first and second in the seventh, ended the threat by retiring pinch-hitter Scott Hairston on a forceout.
Avilan stranded two runners in the eighth when Nate Schierholtz grounded out.
Uggla's homer, his second, made it 5-1. Braves reliever Jordan Walden struck out the side in the ninth.
NOTES: Sveum said before the game that RHP Carlos Marmol has been removed as closer in favor of RHP Kyuji Fujikawa . Neither pitched Sunday. ... Braves 1B Freeman was upset with the team's decision to place him on the DL with a strained right oblique. He will stay in Atlanta for treatment and will not accompany the Braves on their six-game road trip that begins Monday at Miami and continues Friday at Washington. ... One night after hitting his fifth homer in five games, Justin Upton struck out four times. ... Samardzija's previous strikeout high was 11, a mark he first set last July 2 at Atlanta and matched last Aug. 13 against Houston. ... Samardzija is 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA in three career starts against the Braves. ... Atlanta's Simmons, who's missed two games with a sprained right thumb, hopes to return to the lineup early in the week. ... Cubs RHP Matt Garza , on the disabled list with a left side strain, threw a bullpen session, but is still a few days away before he begins a rehab assignment. ... Sveum said 2B Darwin Barney is a couple of days away from a rehab assignment and could return April 15 against Texas.