Still a Padre, J-Up delivers game-winning HR
After 44-minute delay, slugger crushes three-run shot as rain hits again
NEW YORK -- After the fake-outs and fake hugs, the only part of Justin Upton that actually left Citi Field during the Padres' 8-7 comeback win on Thursday sailed over the right-center-field wall.
With rumors still swirling that Upton could be traded, the left fielder diverted all the attention away from the "will he or won't he?" drama and onto the field. Upton blasted his second homer in two days in dramatic fashion, a go-ahead three-run shot off Jeurys Familia in the ninth inning to cap a comeback over the Mets.
"To hit that ball out of the ballpark into a driving rainstorm, with the wind going across to the deepest part of the park," Padres interim manager Pat Murphy said, "that is highly unlikely."
Trailing by two runs and down to their final two strikes, San Diego needed a seven-minute grace period between two rain delays to string together three consecutive hits off Familia, with Upton's 18th homer providing the stunning knockout punch. Blink, and you might have missed it.
However, there was time to savor it.
The Padres' late rally immediately followed a 44-minute rain delay before tucking in front of a two-hour, 52-minute delay. Deep puddles formed in the Citi Field infield while the grounds crew wrestled the tarp amid swirling winds as the rest of the stadium emptied out. Murphy ate dinner, chatted up his players and swept the dugout floor. Upton played cards and dried his clothes.
Afterwards, Murphy joked he kept closer Craig Kimbrel ready by cryogenically freezing him.
Finally, Kimbrel emerged after the second delay to a stadium so bare Murphy described it as "like a Spring Training B-game." While his high-90s heater echoed off empty seats, Kimbrel notched his 30th save by retiring the Mets in order. Daniel Murphy's game-ending flyout capped the series finale six hours and 27 minutes after the game had started.
"They were upbeat the whole time," said Pat Murphy, whose team set New York three games back of first-place Washington.
Thursday started like Wednesday ended, with the Padres taking playful jabs at the many-headed monster that is the Trade Deadline rumor mill. Upton has been traded twice in his career, and he is believed to be the most prized of many Padres on the block now, with San Diego in fourth place in the National League West and eight games behind the first-place Dodgers.
That's why Murphy raised speculation when he removed Upton in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game, notably telling reporters afterwards Upton was removed to rest and "give you guys something to think about."
Upton decided to take the joke a step further, offering fake hugs to his teammates in the dugout after the first inning Thursday, in a tongue-in-cheek nod to the blogosphere. When Upton told Murphy of his plan, the manager volunteered to be his first accomplice.
"That was funny," Upton said. "That's what happens when you tweet everything."
Upton's blast was his first career go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later and his team trailing, and as a single display of talent, it showcased how he can help a contender if San Diego does try to move him. If the Padres don't, it showed how Upton can still serve as the most important cog in a lineup that's won five of six and is suddenly starting to click.