8/4/2013 7:34 P.M. ET
Beachy shows positive signs after shaky start
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- As Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez watched Brandon Beachy progress through the first two innings of Saturday's game against the Phillies, he saw a pitcher dealing with the seemingly inevitable struggles experienced during the early stages of returning from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
But as Beachy cruised through the next four innings, he provided himself and the Braves some confidence that he has already made significant progress.
"He can tell you at what point it turned [Saturday], but I saw two different guys," Gonzalez said. "If you would have walked in during the third inning and watched him, you would have said that's the same guy I saw pitch a year ago. The first couple [innings], you saw a guy that was just struggling with everything."
When Beachy surrendered hits to three of the first four hitters he faced in the second and spotted Philadelphia an early 3-0 lead, he looked much like he had while struggling through 3 2/3 innings against the Rockies on Monday, during his first start back from the major surgical procedure he underwent last year.
But as he entered the seventh having retired 14 of the previous 16 batters he faced, Beachy looked more like he had while posting a Major League-best 2.00 ERA before being sidelined last year. The most significant difference is that he does not yet have enough confidence in his surgically repaired elbow to consistently command the slider that he relied heavily on in the past.
Beachy threw 19 sliders during his ugly outing against the Rockies and just two during Saturday's 95-pitch performance against the Philadelphia. After hanging a slider that John Mayberry sent into the left-field seats in the second, Beachy proved that his changeup and curveball are also effective secondary pitches.
"His curveball and his changeup are plus-plus pitches," Gonzalez said.
After lengthy dry spell, J. Upton's power resurfacing
PHILADELPHIA -- After proving to be baseball's most dominant hitter in April, Justin Upton endured another of the lengthy slumps that have haunted him during his career. But the Braves outfielder started turning things around in early July, and over the last week, he has started to once again display his power potential.
"He's just getting on time with the heater again," Braves hitting coach Greg Walker said. "The first month it was so easy for him, I thought he was going to hit 100 home runs. He was making it look that easy. He kind of warned me a little bit that he occasionally fights some things. Right now he's on time with the heater and when he's that way, watch out. He's that good."
Upton entered Sunday with a season-best eight-game hitting streak and three home runs in his previous three games. Before the first of the two home runs he hit in Thursday's win over the Rockies, Upton had three homers during a stretch of 235 at-bats dating back to May 17.
This power drought was certainly not envisioned when Upton homered once every 7.8 at-bats while going deep a Major League-high 12 times in April. He entered May hitting .298 with a 1.136 OPS and exited June hitting .245 with an .802 OPS. He batted .218 with a .635 OPS during this rough two-month stretch.
But Upton has displayed regular signs of encouragement while hitting .291 with an .827 OPS in 26 games since the start of July. Through Saturday, he had batted .353 over his past eight games.
"I think where I'm at is pretty good," Upton said. "I'm in a good spot. The bat is coming through the zone good. I'm not too worried about where [the ball] goes as long as I'm putting a good swing on it."
• Jordan Schafer began a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett. Schafer, who has been sidelined since June 3 with a stress fracture in his right foot, is not expected to be activated from the disabled list before Friday.
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the five hits the Braves recorded Saturday were the fewest they have recorded in a win that consisted of at least 12 innings since the famous 1-0 win against Pittsburgh's Harvey Haddix on May 26, 1959. Haddix was perfect through 12 innings and allowed just one hit -- Joe Adcock's game-winning double with two outs in the 13th. Lew Burdette scattered 12 hits over 13 scoreless innings for Milwaukee.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.