When Upton stepped to the plate in the fifth for his fourth at-bat of the game, he needed only a single to achieve the elusive hitting feat.
He took the first three pitches he saw from Yankees right-hander David Robertson and fell behind, 1-2, in the count. Upton knew he needed only a single to complete the cycle, but he said a hitter can't go to the plate trying to hit for the cycle. So he concentrated on getting a good pitch.
"Don't chase anything out of the zone," Upton said of his approach. "Probably going to have to hit his pitch at that point -- just stay in the strike zone and try and put a good swing on it."
Upton lined Robertson's fourth offering into right field for the historic hit prompting a standing ovation from the crowd of 22,704 and a rousing ovation from his teammates in the home dugout.
"It's definitely comforting, man," Upton said. "We're family over here, and we stick together. To get that kind of applause feels good."
By completing his cycle by the fifth inning, Upton collected the quickest cycle in a game since Colorado's Mike Lansing did it in the fourth inning on June 18, 2000, against Arizona.
Upton claimed the most difficult piece of the four-hit puzzle with a bases-loaded triple off CC Sabathia in the first.
"[The] first at-bat was a big one obviously," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That kind of broke it open a little bit. That ball was absolutely scalded to right-center on a line. ... It was an incredible night for him."
Upton doubled off the left-field wall against Sabathia in the Rays' four-run third, then added a two-run homer off Jonathan Albaladejo in the fourth to put the Rays up, 11-1, and leave him a single shy of the cycle.
He added a single in his final at-bat to go 5-for-5 on the evening with three runs scored and six RBIs.
Upton's cycle is the eighth in the Major Leagues this season, which tied an MLB record set in 1933. Prior to Upton, Felix Pie was the last player to hit for the cycle this season on Aug. 14, against the Angels.
Six of this year's cycles occurred in the American League, and Upton's became the 289th in Major League history.
Detroit's Carlos Guillen is the only other player to hit for the cycle at Tropicana Field, where he did it against the Rays on Aug. 1, 2006. The Marlins and Padres are now the only two teams remaining without a cycle in their history.
Upton, who carried the Rays offensively during last year's postseason run, has had a difficult 2009 campaign. David Price, who started for the Rays and picked up his 10th win of the season, was happy for Upton.
"That was phenomenal," Price said. "Hopefully he can carry that into next year and keep it going. The way he was swinging the bat tonight was the way he was swinging the bat in the postseason last year.
"It's kind of been up and down for him this year, and he's got to be a little bit frustrated. But tonight it had to be a big confidence booster for him."
Upton said Friday night would help him during the offseason when he thinks about his 2009 season.
"Yeah, definitely," Upton said. "I definitely like the way we're playing right now. We haven't given up -- we're still going out there playing hard. Especially at this point, it would be easy to give up. But we're playing hard and trying to finish on a high note."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.