6/2/2013 12:19 A.M. ET
B.J. Upton gives Braves fans reason to cheer
By Mark Bowman and Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Braves fans have been much more patient than many other fan bases might have been with B.J. Upton during this season's first two months. But their patience had started to wear thin as the outfielder's struggles mounted over the past few weeks.
Upton heard boos after he went hitless in his second and third at-bats against the Nationals on Saturday night. But as he strolled to the plate with one out in the 10th inning of a tie game, he was serenaded by a group of fans loudly chanting, "B.J., B.J."
"I couldn't hear that, that's outstanding," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That doesn't surprise me with the Atlanta fan base, but that was very good because, like I said earlier, he's been getting beat up pretty good, and for him to hear that and feel that, I'm sure it feels good for him."
Energized by the moment and the reception, Upton delivered an opposite-field, walk-off single that gave the Braves a 2-1 victory. The broken-bat hit off Henry Rodriguez could prove to be the spark the veteran outfielder needs to distance himself from the .145 batting average he carried into Saturday.
"It felt pretty good," Upton said. "Obviously, there's been some booing going on, but in a big moment in the game, it's like they forgot all about the past and stood behind me, and I appreciate it."
After leaving Upton out of Friday night's lineup for the fifth time in a seven-game span, Gonzalez said it would not benefit the veteran center fielder to sit much longer. Gonzalez stuck with this belief when he put Upton back in the eighth spot of the lineup for Saturday night's game.
Upton totaled just 11 at-bats in the eight previous games leading into Saturday and struck out in eight of those at-bats.
"You just don't know what the [right] amount of time is to get him straight, one day, two days, 77 hours, I don't know," Gonzalez said. "And it comes to a point where he's got 11 at-bats in 7-8 days, a week, that can't be any good either."
Wood trying to be a sponge in first Major League stint
ATLANTA -- When Alex Wood took the mound for his Major League debut on Thursday night, the University of Georgia fans in attendance reminded the rest of Turner Field exactly where the Braves left-hander came from, as only they can. Amid all the emotions of his big moment, Wood heard them loud and clear.
"The biggest thing for me was hearing all the Bulldog fans barking out there when I stepped up on the mound a few nights ago," Wood said. "I usually don't pay attention to that too much, but when you hear that, I was trying hard not to smile out there, because it was pretty cool."
After completing his career at the University of Georgia, Wood was selected by the Braves in the second round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
The support from the hometown fans was one of the few familiar things about Wood's first inning in the big leagues. Though Georgia and Georgia Tech have played one game out of their season series at Turner Field every year since 2003, Wood never appeared in the annual matchup in his three years as a Bulldog. The left-hander was a starter throughout his college career and his time in the Minors, but he was called up from Double-A Mississippi on Thursday to add depth to a Braves bullpen that shouldered seven innings of work the night before.
All that newness has led to plenty of learning in the first 72 hours after his callup. While manager Fredi Gonzalez said Wood wouldn't be used as a "traditional reliever" because of his lack of experience out of the bullpen, Wood is looking to learn as much as he can from Atlanta's late-inning regulars as he continues to feel out his new role.
"There's a bunch of great guys. I'm just trying to pick their brains on how they go about their daily routine and stuff," Wood said. "A lot of my stuff will translate over in terms of just taking care of my body, in terms of the running and what they do during the game, when they stretch and how they start getting prepared to go into the game."
Wood faced the minimum in a scoreless ninth inning on Thursday night, getting some help from a pair of crisp defensive plays up the middle by Ramiro Pena and Andrelton Simmons to close out an 11-3 win over the Blue Jays. With Thursday night's appearance, he became the first Bulldog to suit up for the Braves since catcher Clint Sammons, who appeared in 31 games for the Braves between 2007-09.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.