Upton, Rea lead way in game-changing 5th inning

May 1st, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- Melvin Upton Jr. won the game's decisive battle. Then Colin Rea made sure the Padres won the war.

Upton's at-bat against Dodgers starter Ross Stripling during the fifth inning of Saturday night's 5-2 victory was a battle in every sense of the word. The Padres' left fielder fell behind with two quick strikes, before working a full count and launching a two-run, opposite-field double on the eighth pitch.

"It was a grind, man," Upton said. "All you can do is go up there and put up a good AB. That was a tough one in a tough situation."

Not only was Upton's at-bat the pivotal moment in a Padres victory that secured their first series win in Los Angeles since 2013. It also lasted three pitches longer than the entire bottom half of the inning for Rea, the San Diego starter.

In fact, Padres manager Andy Green said Saturday's entire fifth inning was one of the most satisfying innings for his club all season. It's easy to see why.

First, they crafted a three-run rally out of an inning that began with two strikeouts. Then, Rea quashed the Dodgers' ideas of getting back into the game by retiring the side on just five pitches.

"We haven't had a ton of really quick, shutdown innings after we score," said Green. "That was one of them. That's what we want to model the year after."

Said Rea: "After us having that long top of the fifth inning, I thought they would maybe not be as aggressive there in the bottom half. But they came out aggressive, and we kept them off balance."

The inning was also a sign of the progress Rea has made in the early stages of the season. His first few outings were marred by a lack of efficiency. In three of his four starts entering Saturday, he threw more than 90 pitches, without pitching into the sixth.

But when the Padres grabbed their three-run lead in the fifth -- that final run coming when Alexei Ramirez plated Upton with an RBI single -- Rea never stopped attacking the strike zone.

"This desire to be too fine too often -- that's what needs to die in him," said Green. "Trust his stuff, trust that what he has is good enough to get big league hitters out."

Rea acknowledged that, mentally, it's easier to pound the strike zone with a three-run lead. On Saturday night, that came courtesy of Upton.

Stripling had walked Wil Myers and Matt Kemp, setting the stage for Upton to play the role of hero. For the second consecutive game -- with Kemp doing so Friday -- the Padres got a clutch hit to turn the game in a critical moment.

"It could be anybody any different night," Upton said. "Just happened to be me."