LOS ANGELES — Dan Uggla’s batting average is the last thing on his mind. The slugging second baseman prefers to concentrate on home runs, RBI and the Atlanta Braves’ comfortable lead atop the NL East.
Uggla had two homers and four RBI in an 8-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday. It was the 18th multihomer game for the three-time All-Star and his second this year.
Since the start of the 2006 season, his first in the majors, Uggla leads all players at his position with 222 home runs – 42 more than Yankees slugger Robinson Cano. He entered this four-game series hitting .183.
“The batting average is what it is,” Uggla said. “I mean, it ain’t the first time I’ve hit .180, .170, .160, whatever. But I throw those numbers out the door. The way I look at it, we’re eight games up right now – and that’s without me doing anything at all. But I know what I’m capable of doing. And if I can be more consistent and help these guys out by driving in some runs, that’s all that matters.”
Freddie Freeman drove in three runs with a double and Mike Minor kept the Braves’ rotation rolling with six solid innings. Atlanta had an eight-game lead over second-place Washington – the largest of any division leader – pending the nightcap of the Nationals’ doubleheader against Minnesota.
The Braves grabbed a 4-1 lead with four runs in the third against rookie Matt Magill (0-2). All of them were unearned because of an error by three-time Gold Glove first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. It was his seventh error, two more than he had last season.
Freeman’s single loaded the bases, and Evan Gattis followed with a sacrifice fly before Uggla drove a 2-1 pitch into the Dodgers’ bullpen in left field. He led off the fifth against Ronald Belisario with his 13th of the season.
“He’s a veteran player, he’s been around a while and he’s seen every kind of pitch. So nothing can fool him,” Magill said. “But if you don’t have good command, you can’t get anybody out.”
Minor (8-2) allowed a run and six hits, struck out six and walked three while helping the Braves gain a split of the four-game series. The left-hander is 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA over his last seven starts.
Atlanta’s rotation has yielded four runs in 37⅓ innings spanning the team’s last six games. The stretch includes eight innings of one-hit ball by rookie Julio Teheran –who came within four outs of a no-hitter on Wednesday against Pittsburgh – and back-to-back starts by Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm in which each allowed one run in Braves losses.
“It’s just a friendly competition among everybody. You always want to top the guy before you,” Minor said.
Magill was charged with seven runs – three earned – and four hits over 3⅔ innings in his sixth major league start, none of which the Dodgers have won. The 23-year-old right-hander from Simi Valley issued six walks, giving him 28 in 27⅔ innings and a 6.51 ERA.
He was recalled Sunday from Triple-A Albuquerque to fill in for Ted Lilly, who wasn’t able to pitch because of a neck sprain and was placed on the disabled list for the third time this season.
“It’s tough not being able to have a set schedule and not being able to pitch every five days,” said Magill, who gave up nine walks last Sunday at Colorado in a 7-2 loss. “But when they need you here, you’ve got to make sacrifices and still be able to compete. That’s why it’s so frustrating, because I’m not giving myself a chance to win games. I know in my head I can do it, but my body’s just not hooking up right now the way I want it to and my fastball command hasn’t been there.”
Atlanta increased the margin to 7-1 in the fourth when Magill loaded the bases with his second walk of the inning and gave up Freeman’s three-run double just beyond the outstretched glove of center fielder Skip Schumaker after getting a visit from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
“When you’ve got bases loaded and two outs, you just want to try and get at least one more run,” said Freeman, second in the NL in hitting with runners in scoring position. “I’m not trying to do anything differently with guys on base. I just try to hit the ball hard every single at-bat, and for some reason they seem to fall with people on. I was fortunate to get one in the gap and luckily he didn’t make that play. It’s always nice to kind of blow it open a little bit and let Mike settle in.”
Los Angeles loaded the bases with none out in the first on the first of three hits by electrifying rookie Yasiel Puig, a bunt single by Nick Punto and a walk to Gonzalez. Puig was forced at the plate on a grounder and Luis Cruz struck out, but Schumaker drove in Punto with an infield single. That extended his career-high hitting streak to 15 games, the longest by a Dodgers player this season.