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COL@ARI: Upton's clutch homer puts D-backs on top

PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson made it clear that his hitters were free to swing with a 3-0 count when he took over the job last season.

Gibson wanted his players to get comfortable swinging at pitches in a hitter's count, he said, especially with three balls and no strikes.

It's a lesson in patience, he explained. Sometimes, a hitter can get too eager in a favorable count and lose focus. Sometimes, the aggressive approach simply doesn't work and it leads to an out.

But often, it works to perfection, and a swing on a 3-0 pitch can result in a game-winning home run. This was one of those perfect nights.

With the score knotted in Tuesday's eighth inning, Justin Upton hit a solo home run to right field off Rockies reliever Felipe Paulino, propelling the D-backs to a 4-3 victory at Chase Field.

"At 3-0, you have nothing to lose," Gibson said. "You are basically looking like you're in batting practice. You're looking for a ball right there, right down the middle. Again, you have to be disciplined and put a good short swing on it. If you over-swing, you are just going to be out."

Give credit to Upton. He finished 3-for-4 and has reached base in 23 of his 28 games played this season. He has hit safely in eight of his past 11 games and leads the team with four game-winning RBIs and 14 extra-base hits.

For his career, Upton is 4-for-8 when he swings with a 3-0 count. The home run was his second in that situation.

"You try not to do too much," Upton said. "You just try to make sure it's a strike and don't come out of your shoes. I was able to get a good pitch to hit. I saw a good fastball to hit and I was able to barrel it up."

Upton showed off several facets of his game. He bunted for a hit in the fifth inning and made a nifty play off the wall in right field on a hard-hit ball by Rockies first baseman Todd Helton in the eighth, holding the veteran to a single.

Upton's heroics aside, the Rockies had their chances. They loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth against reliever David Hernandez, but Chris Iannetta popped out to Ryan Roberts to end the threat.

Gibson was not worried.

"That's baseball," he said.

Gibson's version of baseball also includes resting his starters on occasion and playing backups like catcher Henry Blanco.

Trailing by a run early, Blanco led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run to left field -- his first hit of the season. Starting pitcher Joe Saunders followed with a single and Roberts walked on six pitches.

A groundout by Upton and a walk to Stephen Drew later, Xavier Nady stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded.

Making only his eighth start of the year at first base, Nady made the most of his opportunity. He drove home Saunders and Roberts with a single up the middle, and just like that, the D-backs were ahead, 3-1.

"To be honest, it's a little difficult to stay ready when you don't play, but I've been doing that my entire career," Blanco said. "I have a routine. I'm always ready. I'm happy I was able to contribute to the win."

In the fourth, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez hit a solo home run to cut the D-backs' lead to a run. In the fifth, center fielder Dexter Fowler scored on a triple by Jonathan Herrera to tie it.

Saunders, who was pitching with a sore hip, was charged with three runs on six innings. He is 0-3 with three no-decisions and has not pitched into the seventh inning in six starts this season.

"I kept the ball down and the defense played great behind me," Saunders said. "We got some huge double plays. I didn't feel like I had my best command or stuff, but [Blanco] was awesome back there and I got through six."

It was quite a night for the Upton brothers. Earlier in St. Petersburg, B.J. Upton hit a walkoff home run to give the Rays a 3-2 over the Blue Jays.

"I didn't know," the D-backs outfielder said. "If I would have known that, I would have definitely tried to show him up." Comments