Even on his bobble-head night, the $75 million center fielder went 0-for-5, struck out twice and dropped his batting average to .169.
Maybe it doesn’t look like it, particularly following a 4-3 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday night, but Upton believes he’s close to breaking out of his excruciating slump.
“I’m fine, man,” Upton said. “I’ve been hitting the ball well lately and I feel good about it, no matter what the numbers look like. I know that’s just the product of a really rough start, but now I’m right where I want to be.”
The Braves stranded 11 runners — five by Upton — and went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position to lose for the third time in a five-game series with the Mets.
David Wright hit two solo homers, New York’s bullpen pitched five-plus scoreless innings and the Mets overcame an injury to starter Jonathon Niese, who departed in the fourth inning with left shoulder discomfort.
The Mets’ bullpen shut down Atlanta for the next 5 2/3 innings.
Closer Bobby Parnell earned his 11th save in 14 chances by facing the minimum in the ninth, retiring Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton on groundouts and B.J. Upton on a lineout.
Despite their struggles against the Mets — including a sweep by New York in Tuesday’s doubleheader — Upton believes Atlanta is in good shape with a 6½-game lead over second-place Washington in the NL East.
“You play three games in 24 hours and you lose a couple of one-run games, so what are you going to do?” Upton said. “That’s baseball, but we’re definitely not going to hang our heads, man. We’re going to bounce back, and we’ll be ready to play (tonight in Milwaukee).”
LaTroy Hawkins (2-0), New York’s third pitcher, earned the victory after allowing two hits and striking out two in two innings.
The Mets have won four of six, thanks in part to a bullpen that’s 1-0 with a 1.55 ERA over the last nine games.
Mike Minor (8-3) allowed nine hits, four runs and two walks in six-plus innings for Atlanta. The left-hander struck out six.
Wright, who went 3-for-4, has 32 homers against Atlanta — his most against any opponent — including 18 at Turner Field.
In his last 14 games overall, Wright is hitting .407 with four homers and eight RBIs since June 5. It was his 20th multihomer game and second this season.
Atlanta used four singles in the third to go ahead 3-1. Chris Johnson’s RBI single scored Freeman from second and moved Justin Upton to third. Gerald Laird’s RBI single drove in Upton.
Those runs came off Niese, who winced in the fourth after making a pitch to Tyler Pastornicky. Niese motioned to the dugout that he was hurt and was done for the night after manager Terry Collins visited the mound.
Niese gave up eight hits and three runs with five strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.
Wright gave the Mets a 1-0 lead in the first with his 10th homer and led off the fourth with his 11th to cut Atlanta’s lead to 3-2.
Andrew Brown’s second homer — his career first as a pinch-hitter — led off the Mets’ fifth and tied the score at 3-all.
David Aardsma replaced Niese and pitched out of a jam with runners on first and second when Justin Upton lined out. After Hawkins faced four batters in the fifth and four in the sixth, Brandon Lyon faced the minimum in the seventh.
The Mets took a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh. Omar Quintanilla doubled on the 10th pitch he saw from Minor and scored from second when pinch-hitter Josh Satin doubled down the right-field line.
That chased Minor.
“I felt like I made pretty good pitches to (Quintanilla and Satin), but the home runs were just bad pitches,” Minor said. “Fastball over the middle, hanging curveball and a first-pitch hanging slider, so give credit to those guys. They were bad pitches. They took them out of the yard.”
Jordan Walden got the next six outs, facing the minimum, for Atlanta.
B.J. Upton believed the Braves would break through in the ninth against Parnell. Fans were chanting, “B.J.! B.J.! B.J.!” — but his liner went straight into Quintanilla’s glove at shortstop.
“It was a pretty good at-bat, man,” Upton said. “Hit the ball pretty hard. You can’t guide it. You can only hit it, and it went right at him.”
NOTES: Braves 3B Johnson committed three errors, including two on the same play in the ninth. ... Niese’s road ERA rose to 6.66 in five starts this year. ... Atlanta LHP Luis Avilan faced the minimum for Atlanta in the ninth and hasn’t allowed an earned in 26 of his last 28 appearances.