SAN DIEGO (AP) — It was a perfect convergence for Melvin Upton Jr.
Starting against his old team because Will Venable had been traded a few hours before first pitch, Upton hit two two-run home runs to help power the San Diego Padres to a 9-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night.
In another nice touch, Upton’s brother, Justin, was aboard for Melvin’s homer.
His manager and teammates say they have seen Melvin Upton getting better at the plate.
“I didn’t see that coming, but I felt pretty good at the plate,” he said. “Obviously the situation that me and Will were kind of alternating, that’s tough for anybody, especially when you’re accustomed to playing every day. I’ve been working hard and grinding.
“I felt this is a product of the work I’ve put in and my hitting coach has been behind me. I believe in what I’m doing. It was just good to show a flash of it today.”
Yangervis Solarte hit a three-run shot to back James Shields.
Melvin Upton, acquired from the Braves in a seven-player trade the day before the season opened, homered in the sixth inning off David Aardsma and in the eighth off Andrew McKirahan to help James Shields with a much-needed laugher. He drove in five runs.
Upton, who has five homers this season, was a late addition to the starting lineup after Venable was traded to Texas.
“Mel’s been getting some key hits and contributing to wins, but that was a breakout performance,” interim manager Pat Murphy said. “It’s great to see. It’s much-needed for him. It was good for him.”
Justin Upton hit a leadoff double in the sixth and was aboard for Melvin’s two-out homer.
“It was nice to see,” Justin Upton said. “He’s been working hard. He got the start tonight and his work paid off.”
“It’s big,” the right-hander said. “A lot of people don’t understand, this guy’s been taking some really good swings the last month. Unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten a crazy amount of hits, but he’s been taking really good at-bats. He’s been taking his walks, which I’m most impressed about. He’s showing patience at the plate and things are coming together for him.”
Said Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez: “It happens all the time. It’s just one of those things with the baseball gods. He put two good swings and they were home runs.”
Shields (9-5) won for just the second time in 14 starts. It took him eight starts to get his eighth win and then six starts to get his ninth. He held Atlanta to five hits and struck out seven in six innings.
The loss went to rookie Matt Wisler (5-3), who had been the Padres’ top pitching prospect before being sent to Atlanta in the big trade on April 5.
Matt Kemp had a sacrifice fly and two singles, extending his hitting streak to a season-high 11 games. That includes the first cycle in Padres history on Saturday night at Colorado.
The Braves have lost 17 of 25.