With mammoth HRs, J-Up busts out in big way

Tigers slugger had been slumping, but stayed positive

With mammoth HRs, J-Up busts out in big way

DETROIT -- As Justin Upton simmered over the 420-foot double he hit off the center-field wall Saturday night, denied a game-tying home run by inches in his first game back in the lineup, he was asked if he could still take positives out of his return.

"I try to take positives out of every day," he said early Sunday morning.

Hours later, as he rounded the bases on his second three-run home run to a loud ovation, helping the Tigers to a 10-5 win over the Red Sox, it was easier.

"I haven't heard that much," Upton said. "It was great. It was a good day."

It wasn't just the fans. The reception he received from his teammates showed how much they'd ridden the ups and downs of this challenging season with him. They had seen the positive attitude he maintained for his team, even as he endured an individual nightmare of a season.

Upton's three-run blast

"I continue to let him know he's the kind of guy that can carry a team," Cameron Maybin said. "Not to put any pressure on himself, but he's that type of talent. We're going to need him to do things like that, that he's capable of doing. And it's something to watch when he does.

"When he gets them, he gets them."

On Sunday, he got two pitches from Henry Owens. He put them where neither the deep dimensions of Comerica Park nor the vast range of Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. could deny him of a homer.

"You never know by one swing of the bat," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, "but I feel a lot better from the last two games than I did previously."

Despite all the struggles, including the 1-for-31 slump that led Ausmus to sit down Upton for a few days and have him work with hitting coach Wally Joyner on his swing, he's still capable of taking over a game like this.

"We're sitting there in a 2-0 ballgame," Red Sox manager John Farrell said, "and then all of a sudden it's the Upton show."

Upton's second three-run homer

Upton's long double Saturday off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel was his first extra-base hit in August. He had just four home runs all season when ahead in the count. He got ahead in back-to-back at-bats, forcing Owens to either walk him or challenge him. The 2-0 breaking ball Owens threw Upton with first base open and two outs in the third wasn't exactly a challenge pitch, but it was up and over the plate. Upton drove it on a line to left, 434 feet according to Statcast™.

"The first time through, he was locating and making his pitches," Upton said. "The second time around, I think we were a little patient with him and got him in the zone. When you're in control of the at-bat, it definitely takes away some of his pitches. But he still mixed it up, even in hitters' counts."

Up again with first base open and two outs in the fifth, Upton sent Owens' 3-1 fastball even farther, estimated by Statcast™ at 445 feet, landing it midway up the left-field seats.

Add in Saturday's ninth-inning double, and Upton had about 1,300 feet worth of drives in four at-bats.

"He just put good swings on," Ausmus said. "He looked good at the plate today. He looked good mechanically. He looked confident. And obviously had good results."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.