Dan Uggla’s breakout could be key to Braves’ breakout

Dan Uggla broke out of his season-long slump in a major way with a game-winning homer and all three runs in Braves' 3-2 win. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Dan Uggla broke out of his season-long slump in a major way with this game-winning homer and scored all three Braves' runs in a 3-2 win. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If you’re wondering about Dan Uggla’s game-day attire on Monday, he will arrive at the stadium wearing beige shorts, a plaid button-down shirt and tennis shoes with no socks.

We know this because for as much as Uggla insists he is not superstitious, this just isn’t the time to mess with the cosmic forces.

“I’ll wear the same thing I wore today — you ain’t lying,” he said, smiling.

This was a good day — unlike most of his days as a Brave. He went into Sunday’s game against Philadelphia carrying a .196 batting average the way a pageant queen carries a blemish in the middle of her forehead.

The Braves traded for Uggla. They committed to him over the long term with a five-year, $62 million contract extension. He reciprocated by hitting .154 with runners in scoring position while batting fifth.

Awkward.

“I know he cares and it bothers him,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said earlier Sunday.

The bad run might be over now, which would be good because Uggla probably is running out of outfits. He scored all three of the Braves’ runs in their 3-2 victory over Philadelphia at Turner Field. He singled, went to third on a hit and scored on an infield hit. He walked, went to third on a single (head-first slide) and scored on a sacrifice fly. Then in the eighth inning, with the score tied 2-2 — and with Chipper Jones (knee) and Jason Heyward (shoulder) not available for a late-game heroics — Uggla cracked a Roy Halladay sinker over the left-centerfield wall to give the Braves the lead.

If this is where Uggla starts turning into the offensive force that the Braves have expected, give him points for timing. The victory enabled them to win their second straight series over Philadelphia, the team they figure to battle all season for the National League East.

That assumes they also can figure out a way to win a series from the Washington Nationals.

Uggla’s acquisition figured to be the key for the Braves this season. He was a right-handed bat with power, something they’ve needed and the Phillies lack. For as much as the baseball world has been fawning over Philly’s pitching staff this season, the Braves currently have a better staff ERA (2.99) than the Phillies (3.13). So if the pitching holds up, what happens if Uggla starts putting up numbers that reflect his tenure in Florida (average: 31 homers, 93 RBIs, .263 average)?

The Braves are 5-4 against Philadelphia this season. They’re 23-19 overall, a relatively pedestrian record but impressive considering they’re hitting only .243 as a team. This is a lineup that should produce more offense than it has been. Uggla could be central to the turnaround.

“It’s not a secret how bad I’ve been scuffling all year, so it feels good when you feel like you’re able to contribute,” he said. “Each time you do something like that, it helps you feel more a part of the team. These guys have made me feel welcome. But at the same time, you want to contribute and do your part.”

Gonzalez said that to Uggla’s credit, he hasn’t let his struggles at the plate creep into the rest of his game. “To the contrary, I think he’s playing the game at an even higher level in other aspects,” he said. “Usually when you see guys struggle,their whole game struggles.”

Uggla is not unaccustomed to bad starts. In his career, he has a career batting average of .238 in April. So the fact that he was hitting .194 after the first month might have been humiliating but it wasn’t a complete surprise. He went 3-for-4 in the second game of a doubleheader against Milwaukee May 4, but any thoughts that was the start of a turnaround ended quickly. He went 4-for-34 (.118) in the next nine games.

“Everybody wants to come to a new city with a new organization and do well, and do what they’re paying me to do,” Uggla said. “Obviously I haven’t gotten the results I would’ve liked, but I have to believe it’s just a matter of time.”

The time could be now. But just to be sure, the clothes won’t change.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

60 comments Add your comment

Brian

May 15th, 2011
6:33 pm

First?

I knew he would come arond

Santana

May 15th, 2011
6:33 pm

Brian

May 15th, 2011
6:36 pm

Uggla always starts slow, but he is money late in the year and post season. He is picking the right time to step up.

Santana

May 15th, 2011
6:39 pm

¡Maldita Sea!

ugh lee

May 15th, 2011
6:40 pm

DU still knows how to hit. He’ll be okay, but every time I see those throwbacks from the Jeff Burroughs era Bravos, I want to run and hide. I believe they have won more games in the few times they’ve worn ‘em as ‘throwbacks’ than they did in all of the years they wore them as their regular uniforms. Now THAT was ugly baseball back in those days…

Trainwreck

May 15th, 2011
6:47 pm

Cursing in spanish is still cursing isnt it? Ha. Anyway glad he played well today. Not gonna get too hyped about a good game tho. I’ll wait for a good 2 weeks to get excited

Nomobama

May 15th, 2011
6:54 pm

Great game by the braves, fils were lucky it wasnt a sweep…thank the rookie ump who cant call strikes for that. Also, santana is the one who should be ashamed of himself for hi-jacking the stage to scold atlanta. I wont be buying any of his albums or attending his concerts. Just another clueless perfomer out of touch with the rest of america. We are 14 trillion in debt and wont survive unless drastic cuts are made and illegals stopped at a sealed border.

Sonny Clusters

May 15th, 2011
6:54 pm

We was told he’s a slow starter. Wearing the same clothes may not be as helpful as laying off that pitch that’s low and away. Wearing the same clothes is a whole lot like Jeff’s lucky underpants that he wore all the time. We don’t believe in lucky underpants helping you hit.

Jamaaliver

May 15th, 2011
7:01 pm

Dan Uggla plays for the Braves?!?

Since when?

Josh Smith For 3

May 15th, 2011
7:08 pm

Just when you thought his first K today was a sign of the same, Dan turns around and scores all 3 of the Braves’ runs. Great game for him today. Although he’s still striking out alot, his swing is continuing to straighten out. That frozen rope homer today was a very encouraging sign.

Thrashers Fan

May 15th, 2011
7:16 pm

SAVE THE THRASHERS!

CajunStorm

May 15th, 2011
7:28 pm

Was at my 5th game this year with son, nephew, and brother and almost was electric. I’m NEVER one to beat the “we need to come to the game drum” because I only catch about 10 games a year and the rest on my comfy sofa. But my son asked me a question after Huddy, Uggs, J-Vent, and 98mph Kimmy, threw down on dem Phillies……and the question was: “Dad, why the Braves don’t sellout like the Giants playoff game we went to?”

Great question son…. I’ll have to think on that one.

Alaska Braves Fan

May 15th, 2011
7:32 pm

I want to emphasize that I am an ardent and die-hard Braves fan. So, when I worry about Uggla and Heyward, it certainly isn’t because I want them to play poorly. I hope this is the beginning of Dan’s breakout and of the Braves’ ascent to first place in the division. Nonetheless, I persist in worrying about Uggla and Jason. Uggla’s swing seems too complicated and the opposite of smooth. Heyward seems too prone to injury.

Freeman, on the other hand, is only going to get better and better at the plate as the year goes on. I think he’ll end up with an average around .270 by the end of the year, and he may be a very strong Rookie of the Year candidate. Alex Gonzalez has been a marvelous addition, and Chipper shows every sign of being potent this year as long as he gets an occasional rest.

Baring injuries, when you look at this team, you have to think World Series this year. Wouldn’t that be great fun??!!

ABF

NorCal Brave

May 15th, 2011
7:34 pm

Great job, Dan Uggla! With the prospect of Chipper being out 2-3 weeks, this would be the perfect time for Uggla and Heyward to get on a roll. Also for the Braves to buckle down and take it to the Houstons and the Arizonas and the rest of their upcoming opponents.

bruce

May 15th, 2011
7:58 pm

uggs seems to have a good attitude

Jack G

May 15th, 2011
8:24 pm

If he cant hit until the middle of May, sit him on the bench until June.

Dr. Phil

May 15th, 2011
8:25 pm

Uggla, I love ya, man! I even take back everything I ever posted about McLouth. The Crackers’ uniforms brought back some very old memories as did the 70’s outfits. Now, please don’t choke against Houston!

Delbert D.

May 15th, 2011
8:29 pm

Extrapolate Uggla’s 7 HR to 10 by the end of May for the 1st 2 months, and if he keeps that up, 30 for the year. Pretty big bat that the Braves needed.

atlpaddy

May 15th, 2011
8:31 pm

Great wins this weekend. Now, if we can only make the 1974 unis our Sunday uniforms instead of those red jersey pieces of crap…..

extremus

May 15th, 2011
8:41 pm

I missed the actual ceremony, but just finished reading Santana’s remarks from his Beacon of Change speech. Nothing says “Civil Rights” quite like an honoree coming up to the podium and telling everyone at the game, the city of Atlanta, and the state of Georgia they should be ashamed of themselves over a law that cracks down on illegal immigration (yes, that’s sarcasm). Somebody should inform Mr. Santana that American civil liberties are protected for American citizens and people who come into this country legally; the only rights criminals (including illegals) are entitled to are their Miranda rights.

“Just because there are enough of us here now/that do it” has become the excuse of the day to allow a slew of things go on in America that should have never come to pass. Maybe we SHOULD be ashamed of ourselves…for ever allowing everything that’s ever stood for common decency or common sense in our nation to be turned on its head by fools with more education (i.e. brainwashing) than actual intelligence or common sense. If I were writing up a blueprint for how to destroy a society from within I could do no better than these yahoos are doing right now.

Sorry to throw that rant in here as I know it’s off-topic for this particular blog post; I just get sickened more by the day to what’s happening to my country. The house isn’t divided; it’s fragmented, and political correctness is only a mask of equality placed carefully over the reality that Kruschev’s words are coming true: “We’re going to bury you without firing a shot”.

KJ

May 15th, 2011
8:42 pm

That idiot santana sure did get booed. LOL
Take your political crap somewhere else. Washed up loser.

KJ

May 15th, 2011
8:45 pm

Santana is such a dope, he thinks the movie machete was based on true events.

Coastal Dawg

May 15th, 2011
9:05 pm

Spot on, extremus.

Bruce Mac

May 15th, 2011
9:08 pm

Where are all the Phils that are so stupid to think that batting average is all important. Dan Uggla won the last two games. Dan Uggla is the friggin man, and all of you idiots like Phil please quit your ignorant posting.

John10:10

May 15th, 2011
9:09 pm

I actually concur with the idea of wearing the ’70’s unis on Sunday. I also think Uggla’s chafing under the weight of the new contract. Hopefully he’ll settle down and play ball.

Old Bravo

May 15th, 2011
9:27 pm

John 10:10… Today was a good day for the old unis but you just don’t understand. I watched so much BAD baseball back in the day I never care if we see those uniforms again. We weren’t the proud Braves that you know now. We were the Cellar Dwellers. Like a previous poster said, I think we have won more games wearing them on throwback days than we actually won wearing them originally. Visions of Biff Pocoroba and Paul Casanova dance in my head!

CLINTON (I lied too--so what)

May 15th, 2011
9:41 pm

biff pocoroba was a good ball player.

CLINTON (I lied too--so what)

May 15th, 2011
9:54 pm

Wonder if sadam hussein and osama bin laden are enjoying the hot weather while making friends with counterpart adolph hitler? Are they plotting against the devil or just enjoying the barbecue? There are no border patrols in hell==anyone can get in but not out. Life inprisonment with no parole. On the other hand heaven offers an all expense paid vacation for eternity, Maybe with the Braves winning everyday, Think about it== up or down. Go Braves

Howard

May 15th, 2011
11:09 pm

Great day for Dan. To me the real story is Henski. As long as he keeps hitting as he has keep Jason o.n the bench

Trapper John

May 15th, 2011
11:12 pm

Today’s uniforms were the ugliest in their day and remain the ugliest of all time for at least the past 30 years. The “RED on Sunday uniforms” look like sh**! We are not the Reds.The Braves uniforms that Aaron, Matthews, Adcock, and company wore were the best uniforms ever! Late ’50’s and early 60’s. Pin stripes with Braves in cursive and tomahawk across the chest. White at home and gray on the road. Worked out pretty well in ‘58 and ‘59. Use those! Nobody cares if they say Atlanta on the front of the uniform on the road. Everybody knows the Braves and where they presently reside. Yankee uniform hasn’t changed in 90 years — nor should it. Baseball is a game of tradition. Get back to it. For crying out loud, back to some tradition and common sense here…

FORMER Santana Fan

May 15th, 2011
11:23 pm

Sunday’s Civil Rights Games was almost a perfect experience.

Carlos Santana should stick to playing his music and keep his self-righteous, uninformed, condescending political view about other citizens’ states in which he doesn’t pay any taxes OUT of baseball games.

extremus

May 16th, 2011
12:37 am

Back to the topic of the blog; it was great to see Dan Uggla’s bat come alive and be key in the win today. Hopefully he can keep it going and bring his average up to the level most of us feel he is capable of producing. It’s especially important with dings to key players like Chipper and Heyward recently; somebody has to pick up the slack.

Joey

May 16th, 2011
6:57 am

extremus, 8:41 pm.

Right on the money.

louisville slugger

May 16th, 2011
7:07 am

I have to say, as much as Uggla is scuffling at the plate, I do love his attitude in the field and on the base paths. Dude hustles, and you can tell he cares. I’ll give a guy like that some leeway to find his comfort zone.

Larry

May 16th, 2011
7:11 am

The sad thing is Uggla epitomizes the Braves offensive philosophy–hard wailing every time he swings just in case the bat finds the ball. Dan Uggla has been swinging a bat since February–yes, FEBRUARY–and so it takes him about 3 months and perhaps thousands of swings to find his grove every season?

This is precisely why like seasons past this team and it’s fans–with just ONE exception in Atlanta Braves postseason history–have watched their opponents celebrate last. Great pitching saddled with an offensive roster and lineup selection that is too dependent upon the HR heroics like yesterday. The great pitchers we face in the postseason know this, know we have no speed or situational contact hitters, and know they just need to keep it in the yard to win the close games.

The more intelligent and knowledgeable baseball fans have grown utterly bored with this predictably flawed approach and this, more than anything else, is why the crowds are so poor now at Turner field. Why spend you time and money on boring, predictable, and unexciting baseball?

So, after the last 10 or so seasons of this same brand of offensive baseball, what did the Braves do to get the fans re-energized? They hired the clone of the person who patented this approach–Fredi Cox!

Mickey Lolich

May 16th, 2011
7:18 am

best part of santana’s speech was that he called it an “anti-american law”. how can a law directed at illegal aliens be “anti-american” when they aren’t “americans” in the first place. sadly most people are blind moles and they agree with him or allowed him to spew that garbage on Georgia soil.

rm

May 16th, 2011
7:52 am

Uggla’s hitting has been nothing short of Uggly. Braves really need for him to get his avg up about 50 points just to be respectable. And, Santana should never be allowed back in the great state of Georgia! Go away and take about 500,000 of your friends with you!

phil

May 16th, 2011
7:53 am

Good morning, Bruce Mac! Thanks for the kind words earlier. Tell you what…when Uggly actually manages to accumulate some hits over the course of more than just ONE game, then I’ll cease with my ignorant posts about him….deal?

Meanwhile, might want to pay some attention to what Larry is saying. He’s said it before and no doubt will again….reliance on the HR is an ultimate kiss of death in this game….it won’t get the job done in the long haul, which is what matters, isn’t it? Winning a championship?

Or is it more important to see Uggly hang 30 homers on the board while hitting .196?

Cecil34

May 16th, 2011
8:13 am

When those uniforms were first worn in 1972, thus began the worst stretch of baseball the Atlanta franchise ever experienced.

We went through at least 6 to 7 managers between 1972 and 1978 when they went to the equally ugly red pinstriped home uni’s, but kept a version of the feather uni’s for road use.

I don’t see the humor in wearing these, and for those of us around back then, well, we thought they looked like softball uniforms. Very unprofessional.

However, it did start a trend in the MLB because the Astros picked up where we left off with those ugly 70’s uni’s they had.

So like others, when I see them I really don’t feel good about it.

And of course they aren’t really throwbacks, because they still permit the players to wear slacks instead of stirrup socks. Ugh!

Oh, and I’m not worried about Uggla, either.

urban redneck

May 16th, 2011
8:35 am

carries his batting avg the way a pageant queen carries a blemish?

wow, that’s some nice imagery.

glad to see uggly turning it around!!

ChillyMutt

May 16th, 2011
8:49 am

If Uggla can get rolling and with Heyward coming back …. Freeman putting together some productive at bats, maybe then Chipper would feel comfortable getting that knee taking care of sooner than latter.

Seth

May 16th, 2011
8:52 am

The problem with the Braves is they play to their level of competition. And usually lose when they play crap teams. remember last year when they lost to the pirates late? Last week it was Washington. Watch houston win 2 this week after getting 2 against the phillies.

Bernard

May 16th, 2011
9:23 am

Dan you da MAN!!!!….GGGGGGGOOOO BBBBRAVES!!!!!…..hey guys i thought we agreed??? NO MORE HEAD FIRST SLIDES???!!!

TheAntiMe

May 16th, 2011
9:26 am

Another winning week for the Bravos and one thing is still a given I see. That whiny azz phil is back at it slamming the home team. I guess the fact that the dudes have won 15 of their last 22 and two straight series from the Phillies isn’t enough to keep him from insulting any and everyone who wears a tomahawk across his chest.

Tell you what, phil, since you are obviously no Braves fan why don’t you just get yourself a Red Sox hat, to go along with your special Red Sox PJ’s and root for the freaking Sox? They definitely deserve someone like you to whine them on to victory.

chief pitchanono

May 16th, 2011
9:30 am

Yeah that has to be addressed if we are gonna win this division. We simply cannot afford to play 500 or worse against Washington. Over the last few years we have done pretty well against most teams we should beat, but the nats have become our nemesis and I believe they stand between us and the Nl east title. They simply lay down and die against philly and play their best ball against us. Its been that way, and is shapeing up to be that way again this year. In the end if we can come close to matching philly’s record against the nats, we can win the division. If they beat the Nats 5 or six more times that we do. we’ll have to hope for the wildcard. It sounds crazy but the road to the NL east title goes through Washington for us. Go Braves!!

Worm

May 16th, 2011
9:36 am

Carlos Santana sucks and the Braves shouldn’t have given him an opportunity to blast their own City..
Thanks also go to delta.

GoBraves!

May 16th, 2011
9:40 am

Uggla will be fine and carry this team’s offense often throughout the season. I wouldn’t be surprised to him finishing with 30 hrs+ 100+ rbis. What hasn’t been talked about much is Prado’s unselfishness. He moved to LF without a single complaint. He was an all star second baseman last year. If he stayed there he could possibly become a perennial all star. The way he’s been playing lately, he still has a shot at being an all star outfielder but the competition is usually steeper out there with Braun, Kemp, Ethier, Hollday, Victorino, and other big boppers.

Double Zero Eight

May 16th, 2011
10:27 am

Uggla will be o.k. Every hitter goes through a slump.
He has been hitting the ball hard lately. I knew it was
just a matter of time before he started to emerge from
his slump.

The Braves will win the division!

tiger7_88

May 16th, 2011
10:33 am

So Dan Uggla getting hot will help the Braves? The AJC actually *pays* you for these valuable insights, Schultz?

Jeez… no wonder newspapers are dying.

Al

May 16th, 2011
10:38 am

Let’s not credit him with a turn-around after one good game. The jury is still out.