DETROIT -- The look on Justin Upton's face as he rounded first base in the 12th inning Monday night, his line drive to the left-field seats having ended the Tigers' second straight extra-inning game with an 8-7 win over the Mariners, said plenty.He rounded first with the same intensity with
DETROIT -- The look on Justin Upton's face as he rounded first base in the 12th inning Monday night, his line drive to the left-field seats having ended the Tigers' second straight extra-inning game with an 8-7 win over the Mariners, said plenty.
He rounded first with the same intensity with which his ball seemed to head out before finally slowing up a bit and enjoying the trot to end a 4-hour, 29-minute contest. Then he readied for the pile of teammates waiting for him at home plate.
"That was a big relief tonight," he said, "not only because we played 13 [innings Sunday] and I was getting my teammates off the field, but to win a ballgame for this team. There's been a lot of ballgames where I could've helped, but I didn't. So to win it tonight for the guys was just awesome."
He arguably won it twice. His shot to the second tier of shrubs in center field had powered the Tigers ahead in the seventh inning before the Mariners drew even in their next at-bat. Upton missed a chance with the potential winning run in scoring position in the ninth, popping out behind the plate, but he didn't miss Vidal Nuno's 2-2 changeup when it caught the plate next time up.
Neither home run was the most majestic of the night; that belonged to Miguel Cabrera. But they were the two most important.
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This is the kind of stretch the Tigers envisioned from Upton when they signed him last winter, the kind that make the struggles worth the while. He can look helpless at the plate at times and can carry his team in others. With four home runs in four games, a 10-game hitting streak, a declining strikeout rate and a 21-for-69 (.305) clip since June 2, he's showing signs of that stretch.
He said he started seeing the ball well last week. He's now seeing better results.
"He wanted to help his team," manager Brad Ausmus said, "and I don't think he'd admit it, but I think he was pressing a little bit. I think the home run to center released a little bit [of pressure], and I think the walk-off, he should feel very good about his night.
"I hope this is the point he looks back and says this is where I really became a Tiger and this is where the Tigers' season turned around."
Asked if he put added pressure on himself, Upton said no.
"My teammates were picking me up all year," he said. "We're still in a good place in the division, and they didn't allow me to hang my head, so I'm not going to. This isn't the last time; they're going to have to pick me up again at some point. Just ride it as long as you can."
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.