Braves win on ninth-inning homers from Uptons

26 Comments

Not only did B.J. and Justin Upton homer as teammates for the first time Saturday, but they did it in style, launching solo homers in the bottom of the ninth as the Braves came back to beat the Cubs 6-5.

The Cubs were up 5-1 when the Braves rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth against closer-in-waiting Kyuji Fujikawa. That left Carlos Marmol with no margin for error in the ninth, and the implosion followed quickly. B.J.’s homer led off the inning. Marmol rebounded to retire Jason Heyward, but then Justin Upton hit his second homer of the game to finish it.

For Justin Upton, it was his fifth homer in five games as a Brave and the second walkoff shot of his career. B.J. had been hitless in 14 at-bats this season before going 2-for-4 tonight. B.J. was making his debut in the leadoff spot because of an injury to Andrelton Simmons; he had previously been hitting fifth in the lineup.

Thanks to the Uptons, the Braves overcame a disappointing season debut from Julio Teheran. The 22-year-old had a remarkable spring, amassing a 1.04 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 26 innings, but he gave up five runs in five innings tonight.

As for the Cubs, they’ll again face questions about how they’ll handle the ninth. While this was Marmol’s first blown save and loss, he’s been awful in all three of his appearances to date. Fujikawa was looking good until tonight, but since he now has an 11.57 ERA, the Cubs might choose to go to a closer-by-committee that also includes James Russell.

Tommy La Stella talks about his refusal to report to the minors in 2016

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In late July of 2016, Cubs infielder Tommy La Stella was demoted to Triple-A. It wasn’t personal. It was a roster crunch situation and La Stella had options left so, despite the fact that he had been an effective player to that point of the season, it made sense to send him down.

La Stella didn’t take the demotion well. In fact he refused to report to Iowa and went home to New Jersey instead. It was not until August 17 that he finally reported and then only after prolonged discussions with the Cubs and the assurance that he’d be back in the majors once rosters opened up. Which he was, after spending just over a week down on the farm.

Such a move by a player would, normally speaking, make him persona non-grata. His teammates would shun him and the organization would, eventually, cut bait, with the press characterizing him as a me-first player as he walked out the door. That did not happen with La Stella, however, who remains with the Cubs two years later and, by all accounts, is a popular and important guy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, even if he’s not one of the team’s big stars.

Today Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has an in-depth story about La Stella, what went down in 2016 and how he and the Cubs have proceeded since then. The story is subscription only, but the short version is that there was a lot of understanding and empathy on the part of the Cubs organization and their players about what was going on in La Stella’s head at the time and how everyone allowed everyone else the space to work through it.

I’m happy to read this story, because all too often we only hear about such incidents as they occur, with little followup. To the extent the story is told, most of the time its completely one-sided, with the player who acts out being treated like a bad seed with little if any explanation of his side of things. And, yes, there are always two sides to the story. Sometimes even more.

Kudos to Rosenthal for telling this story. Here’s hoping the next time a player is involved in a controversy that, in the moment, makes him appear to be a bad seed or have a bad attitude, we hear more about it then too.