Justin Upton continued to emerge from his early-summer slump with two home runs in the D-backs' 10-4 victory over the visiting New York Yankees on Monday night. He and his Arizona teammates plated eight of those runs on long balls and all 10 with two outs before 47,229 at Chase Field, the team's biggest crowd since Opening Day.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
Upton's theatrics also put his manager at ease. A.J. Hinch admitted that he didn't have an answer for the team's recent road woes. For the next two days, he won't need one. The club continues its brief but greatly appreciated homestand on Tuesday, when Dan Haren opposes Andy Pettitte.
The D-backs, who avoided slipping a season-worst 14 games back in the National League West, hit 42 points higher at home (.275) than they do on the road (.233). That explains why they have have won 11 of their past 16 home games (and lost 14 of their past 15 away from Phoenix).
Upton, whose April and May struggles were well documented (he dropped temporarily from third to seventh in the batting order), batted .318 during the recent road swing and has 13 hits in his past 39 at-bats overall.
"You never know when it's going to come," said Upton, who reached base five times on Monday, stole his 11th base and raised his batting average to .256. "It wasn't a road thing or a home thing."
Against the Yanks, Upton was among three D-backs to take A.J. Burnett (6-6) deep during their five-run first: Mark Reynolds also went solo and Adam LaRoche plated three with his.
After singling in the second, Upton was struck just above his left elbow by a Chad Gaudin fastball in the sixth. He took a knee beside the home dugout and winced in pain.
"He stayed in the game and toughed it out," Hinch said. "I'm glad he did."
That's because two innings later he lifted a 3-2 Chan Ho Park slider into the left-field bleachers for a three-run blast, his third career multi-homer game. Upton then slung his bat and watched the baseball fly.
"I [was] trying to put the barrel on the ball, and he hung a breaking pitch that I saw pretty big," Upton said. "I was able to put one of my better swings on it."
It's not only "better swings" that's resulted in Upton's recharge; his manager says his non-swings -- taking pitchers' pitches and keeping on his feet in the batter's box -- are a staple of his newfound success. (He didn't strike out for the first time in four games, though he's still second among Major League sluggers with 92 through 71 games.)
"He's not overswinging the way he was when he was trying to make up for a bad stretch with one swing," Hinch said.
"I don't step on lines and I don't talk about streaks," the skipper added, wary of jinxing his right fielder's improvement. "I hope he gets locked in until Spring Training."
The same could be said for the hitter who follows (at least of late) Upton in the batting order. New cleanup man Miguel Montero plated the D-backs' sixth run on a second-inning double and its seventh run on a fourth-inning single. Montero had 13 hits in 31 at-bats since coming off of the 15-day disabled list on June 12.
The Yankees responded in the third with Nick Swisher's RBI triple off the center-field wall, which elicited "Let's go Yankees" chants from the visitor-heavy crowd. Other than that and Alex Rodriguez's RBI double and Jorge Posada's sacrifice fly in the sixth, Rodrigo Lopez managed to limit one of the Major League's most potent lineups to eight hits over eight innings.
Lopez (3-6) collected his first win since May 15, a span of seven starts, and is 3-0 this season when keeping the baseball inside the park.
"I don't recall a game where we missed so many balls or hit them straight up in the air, warning track balls or whatnot," said Rodriguez, who went 1-for-4 and accounted for two of Lopez's 17 outs recorded in the air.
Lopez himself particularly marveled at his success against A-Rod's left-side-of-the-infield mate.
"This is a [heck] of a lineup. I faced a lot of them from my years with the Orioles," he said. "Derek Jeter is the guy I have faced the most. He owns me [26-for-61], but today I don't know what happened."
Andrew Pentis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.