Move to fifth in order paying off for Upton

Move to fifth in order paying off for Upton

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Tigers outfielder Justin Upton connected on a Tyler Duffey pitch in the first inning, there was no doubt he was clearing the fence for a home run. Manager Brad Ausmus said the only question was whether it would land in the second deck.

Upton's three-run homer provided an early lead in Detroit's 4-1 win over the Twins on Saturday. The 429-foot shot, according to Statcast™, left little doubt to anyone. Upton didn't realize quite how prodigious his second dinger with the Tigers was until he went out to left field to play defense in the bottom of the inning.

"Yeah, the wind was coming in pretty good," Upton said. "The ball [Brian] Dozier hit in the first at-bat, it came off the bat really well. I think the higher you hit it, the less it was going to carry. It was pretty rough out there."

Upton homered for just the second time in 23 games since signing a six-year, $132.75 million contract over the offseason.

After beginning 2016 hitting second in the order, Upton was moved to fifth and has started to resemble the accomplished hitter that garnered the lucrative deal.

"He's kind of shortened up, he's getting ready a little earlier, which allows him to see the ball better," Ausmus said. "It's a matter of timing for him, mostly. When he goes bad, it's a matter of timing. I think he's worked on some things here recently that have helped his timing, and he's looked better the last few games."

Upton's RBI single

During this four-game stretch batting fifth in the order, Upton is 5-for-18 (.278) with four RBIs. He posted a .211 average in 18 games as the No. 2 hitter.

Upton said there is no change in his approach after the move in the batting order, but he's trying to see more pitches.

"I'm seeing the ball a little longer than I was before," Upton said. "Letting it get to the zone and making my decision, so that always helps."

Upton's production helps Detroit's offense. For the second straight game, the Tigers built a 3-0 lead in the first. Over the past six games, when the team has gone 5-1, Detroit has scored 37 runs for an average of 6.2 per game.

Ausmus said there was no "mathematical reason" behind swapping Upton and J.D. Martinez in the order four games ago. The manager was looking to spark an offense that hadn't been hitting like expected.

With Upton resembling the hitter who has a career .270 average with 191 home runs in 1,206 games, the batting order is as deep as expected.

"I'm swinging the bat better," Upton said. "It's a long season, though. You're going to hit hot streaks. You're going to have some cold times. So, you just can't really look too much into it."

Brian Hall is a contributor for and covered the Tigers on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.