8/16/2014 1:20 A.M. ET
J. Upton starts as hamstring shows improvement
By Jon Cooper / Special to MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Any worries about Justin Upton and his left hamstring were alleviated early on Friday morning, as the Braves' power-hitting left fielder was in manager Fredi Gonzalez's starting lineup, batting in his usual cleanup spot for Friday night's opener against the Oakland A's.
He also showed he was okay in the second inning of Friday night's 7-2 win over the Oakland A's, when he jumped on an 0-1 pitch from Oakland starter Jason Hammel, depositing it over the left-field wall.
It was his only hit of the day, but not his only hard-hit ball, including a rocket in the third inning that All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson made a tremendous play on for an out.
His second-inning blast proved to be a key blow in the game, as it gave the Braves a lead and allowed the hitters to relax.
"You want to get it going, but you can't press. So we were just trying to stay loose and have good at-bats," said shortstop Phil Gosselin. "Justin got us off to a good start and we kind of rolled from there."
It also allowed winning pitcher Alex Wood to pitch with a lead.
"Any time we get a lead like that and we're swinging the bats like that it gives me a lot of confidence, a little more room for air, so to speak, a little more room to work with," he said. "It's exciting when we swing the bats like that."
If he'd had his way, Upton never would have left Thursday afternoon's series finale with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a game he had to leave in the eighth inning after suffering a mild left hamstring strain pulling into third base. He might have had a chance to provide some excitement with two outs in the ninth, when his spot in the order came back up. But that's history, as, obviously, is any talk of injury. He made that clear to his manager Friday morning.
"He's fine," said Gonzalez before the game. "It's one of those things. He's had it before. It flairs up on him a little bit. I'm not a trainer, not a medical, but the weather's got something to do it. But I checked with him this morning. He said, 'Fredi, I feel great. I felt like if I had enough time yesterday I probably could have stayed in the game.' I'm like, 'Son of a gun, you looked like you were hurtin'.'"
Upton continued putting the hurt on opposing pitchers over the last 39 games, batting .290 (40-for-138), with six homers and 27 RBIs. He carries a six-game hitting streak into Saturday's game, during which he's hit .316 (6-for-19). For the homestand, he's hit in seven of the first eight games, with two doubles, three homers, nine RBIs. He's also shown a great eye at the plate, walking eight times vs. eight strikeouts.
Braves players take Ice Bucket Challenge
ATLANTA -- The Ice Bucket Challenge is the hottest trend around the sports and entertainment world right now ... or is it the coolest?
Friday afternoon at Turner Field, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, and several of his teammates, took turns participating in the charitable pursuit, in which they get an ice-filled cooler dumped over their heads.
"We're going to do that. It's for a good cause so it will be fun," said Freeman, who was challenged to participate by his brother, Andrew.
The initiative, which helps raise money and awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), aka Lou Gehrig's Disease, is credited to former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who's been living with ALS since 2012. He began the craze in late July and celebrities of sports, entertainment and all walks of life have jumped on board.
Once someone gets dunked, that person can make a donation to the ALS Association then can issue three challenges.
Freeman wasted no time, challenging his good friend and teammate Jason Heyward, as well as recent Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux.
Heyward wasted no time taking the plunge, doing so right after Freeman. His challenges have not yet been made public, although Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez might be a good candidate.
"I haven't gotten invited. I would do it but I haven't got invited," said the Braves skipper. "It raises awareness, raises money for that charity. Why not?"
Freeman and Heyward stood in the middle of the home dugout to receive their ice bath from third baseman Chris Johnson, who took great delight in performing the honors from on top of the dugout. (Braves relievers Craig Kimbrel, Jordan Walden, and David Carpenter, and Executive of Business Operations Mike Plant also took the challenge, but preferred to take matters into their own hands).
Freeman admitted that while he'd gotten soaked before following walk-off hits, this time would be a little different.
"It's going to feel a little bit different because Chris is going to pour it on me and he's not going to tell me when. Just stand there and make the guy just sweat it out until the water hits you," he said. "You can kind of feel or see someone coming, but I'm just going to be standing there and just waiting and knowing him he's going to wait for a few seconds and just make me panic a little bit.
"But it's for a great cause so we're going to have a lot of fun with it and I get to challenge some people, too," he said, "That you'll probably get to see. I can't wait to see them do the Ice Bucket Challenge."
The Ice Bucket Challenge has brought in an estimated $9.5 million in donations according to the ALS Association. That's up from $1.6 million raised during the same time period last year.
Gosselin steps in for Simmons, hits first homer
ATLANTA -- Phil Gosselin got the start at shortstop for Atlanta on Friday night as the Braves opened their weekend series with the Oakland A's at Turner Field.
The reason Gosselin got to fill in was because regular shortstop Andrelton Simmons needed some dental work and was unable to start the game.
"He had to go to the dentist. He has some tooth issue," said manager Fredi Gonzalez, prior to Friday's game. "I told 'Goose,' 'I'm just going to put a lineup out. If he's able to play then he'll play. If not, you'll play.'"
Gosselin lashed a single as part of a three-run third inning, then mashed a Jesse Chavez pitch out to center field for a two-run homer in the sixth, putting a crown on Atlanta's 7-2 win.
It was a long time since Gosselin went yard, but every bit as fun as he remembered -- back on May 30, 2009 against San Diego State and a certain, unbeaten, rocket-throwing right-hander.
"The last one was probably in college," said the former University of Virginia star. "I hit one off [Stephen] Strasburg when we beat them in the NCAA Tournament. This is the big leagues. This one's on a little bigger stage. That was definitely the biggest one I've hit."
For Gosselin, coming up big is all about coming in ready to play.
"Definitely," said the 25-year-old, who was drafted by the Braves in the fifth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. "Whatever I have to do to get on the field, it's kind of my motto and however I can help the team out."
His work ethic isn't lost on his teammates.
"I've seen him play in Spring Training and our Minor League coaches give us a good report every time they come up," said Gonzalez. "You can play him at shortstop, he's going to make all of the routine plays. He's now played three different positions for us, third, short and second. He's got a nice, short stroke, he's athletic and it's nice to see that. Nice to have that piece in your dugout that you can run out there with Simmons, and give him a day or whoever on the infield, give him a day and you feel like you're pretty good."
"It's tough to not play every single day and come in and get some hits off a very tough pitcher," added first baseman Freddie Freeman, who scored behind Gosselin in the third. "He was able to do that tonight and help us win a ballgame."
However and wherever.
Friday's start was his first at short. In his first four games, he's started twice at second base and once at third. The versatility and ability to play any infield position made Gonzalez's decision to put him in the starting lineup an easier one and the endorsement of the team's Minor League Roving Infield Instructor Luis Lopez, who has worked out Gosselin at short and was at Turner Field, and current Gwinnett Braves manager Brian Snitker further eased Gonzalez's mind.
Gonzalez said Gosselin's hot bat was the deciding factor in giving him the start. He was hitting a team-high .344 when called up on July 26 from Gwinnett and is hitting .333 (2-for-6) on the current homestand.
He's looking forward to helping the team however he can from the two-hole.
"I've hit there a bunch throughout my career," he said. "I can bunt a little bit, hit-and-run, that kind of stuff," he said. "Maybe get some guys moving. Whatever Fredi wants me to do I'm ready to do."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.