Upton putting his 'tools' on display
Outfielder showing speed, power in recent surge at plate
MILWAUKEE -- The word "tools" has always been associated with right fielder Justin Upton, and Saturday night's game was Exhibit A of why.
Upton surprised the Milwaukee defense with a drag bunt for an easy single in the fifth inning, putting runners at the corners with nobody out in what turned into a game-changing three-run rally. One inning latter, he hit a jaw-dropping 450-foot homer to left that bounced off a restaurant in left field -- a facade seldom visited since Milwaukee hosted the 2002 Home Run Derby.
"He's had periods like this before," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said of Upton, who has hit .387 over the past nine games, with three homers and 10 RBIs. "For me, he needs to play a whole season. He's gotten sidetracked a little bit -- the first year, he wasn't here the whole year, and the second year, he was injured. Once he gets a full year under his belt, a full year of making adjustments and going back and forth, he'll be off to the races."
Upton has already gone back and forth this season. He was hitting .167 with no home runs, one RBI and a .222 slugging percentage before the recent stretch, during which he has slugged .742.
"He could end up being a three guy, a four guy [in the lineup]," Melvin said. "He could hit anywhere in the lineup. Right now, [No. 5] is probably the best spot for him. Mark [Reynolds] has done a nice job in the four-spot. There's not too much pressure for [Upton], but he's still in a spot where he can drive in some runs."
Upton said he wasn't opposed to using his speed more regularly.
"I could break it out a little more, when the situation really called for it," he said after Saturday's game. "I was trying to get that guy over early -- I was just thinking about the team in that situation."
Upton's speed played a role in Friday's win as well. His swinging bunt in the eighth inning brought home the tying run. Third baseman Bill Hall's only chance was to let the ball roll foul, which it didn't, and the dose of good luck extended Upton's hitting streak to eight games. Heading into Sunday, he was sitting at a career-best nine.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.