Upton belts Padres-record 3rd walk-off homer

July 3rd, 2016

SAN DIEGO -- Melvin Upton Jr. insists that hitting walk-off home runs never gets old.

If anyone would know, it's him.

Upton etched his name in Padres lore during Friday night's 2-1 victory over the Yankees, with a ninth-inning blast into the second level of the Western Metal Building. It marked the third walk-off home run for Upton this year -- the most by a Padres hitter in a single season -- and the seventh of his career.

"Walk-offs are always cool," Upton said with a smile afterward. "I don't care who you are."

Jaw-dropping moments have become the norm for Upton during the first half of the 2016 season -- and not only because he's ended three games by himself.

On top of the walk-off dingers, Upton has recorded a straight steal of home; he's hit the Padres' longest home run ever recorded by Statcast™; and he's taken away three long balls as well -- including a breathtaking defensive gem against Baltimore earlier this week.

"There's really nothing else he can do at this point in time that's going to shock you," said Padres skipper Andy Green.

It's not as though Upton entered the at-bat looking to play the role of hero -- although he did have two prior homers against Yankees reliever Andrew Miller in 10 at-bats.

"Obviously, leading off the inning, the main goal is to get on base," Upton said. "You're not going up there trying to hit a home run. Go up and try to put a good AB together against a very good pitcher."

Upton's renaissance comes after a 2015 campaign in which he missed most of the first half because of a foot injury. Of course, that came on the heels of two poor seasons with Atlanta.

In that regard, Upton called this year "the most fun in a while." Along with his heroic moments, Upton has also been one of the club's steadiest players, leading the Padres with 19 stolen bases and sitting second with a .760 OPS.

But there's no question he lives the big moment. Upton joined Bip Roberts, Bruce Bochy and Scott Hairston as the only players with three career walk-off homers for the Padres -- and he's accomplished the feat in the first half of this season.

"He's a low-heartbeat guy," Green said. "There's not a lot that ruffles him. He's really even-keel.

"To some degree, he's probably gotten a bad rap for that throughout the years. There's nothing that fazes him. He's smooth, glides through the game, everything's relaxed. Some people mistake that. It's those kinds of guys that have a low heartbeat in those pivotal situations -- it doesn't affect them."

The high-pressure stage clearly didn't get to Upton Saturday night. And while some players might wait their entire careers for a moment like that, for Upton, it might not have been his favorite highlight of the week.

"I don't know," Upton said with a wry grin. "Robbing the home run the other day was pretty cool. It's definitely right up there, neck and neck."