SAN DIEGO -- Melvin Upton Jr. has been a human highlight reel for the Padres in 2016. But even by his standards, his first two innings in Tuesday night's 11-7 loss to the Orioles were downright spectacular.Upton led off the bottom of the first inning with a moonshot to straightaway
SAN DIEGO -- Melvin Upton Jr. has been a human highlight reel for the Padres in 2016. But even by his standards, his first two innings in Tuesday night's 11-7 loss to the Orioles were downright spectacular.
Upton led off the bottom of the first inning with a moonshot to straightaway center field, projected by Statcast™ at 465 feet -- the longest home run by a Padre in the Statcast™ era, which began on Opening Day 2015. If was also the eighth longest homer in the big leagues this season.
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Then, with one out and a man on first in the second, he made an equally jaw-dropping defensive gem, racing to the center-field wall and robbing J.J. Hardy of a two-run homer, before firing to first base to complete a double play.
"Honestly, that one, I just kind of jumped for it and was surprised it ended up in my glove," Upton said when asked where that play ranks among his all-time favorite catches. "Yeah, [it's] definitely No. 1."
Upton -- who only started in center field because Jon Jay was placed on the disabled list earlier in the day -- tracked the ball beautifully, and timed his jump perfectly. He needed a full extension of his left arm to make the play. According to Statcast™, Upton covered 98 feet to reach the wall, and his throw to first base was clocked at 91.9 mph.
It marked only the third time in the past two seasons that an outfielder has covered 90 feet or more to make a catch before recording a throw of 90 mph or more on the same play. The Twins' Danny Santana and the Cubs' Albert Almora also did so.
"You got to see some plays made, and you go, 'These guys are some kind of talented,'" said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "What's better, the catch or the throw? Stand out there tomorrow, and see if you can get a ball to be that accurate to first base from that distance -- let alone the catch."
Hardy drove the pitch, a 3-2 fastball from Padres starter Erik Johnson, to the deepest part of the park -- and probably about two or three feet over the center-field wall. In that regard, it could very well have been one of the longest outs in Petco Park's history. Statcast™ projected the ball's distance at 403 feet.
Upton's catch marked the third time this season he's robbed an opponent of a dinger. As a left fielder, he also stole one from the Pirates' Matt Joyce and the Braves' Freddie Freeman.
"I don't think people realize: He didn't move to left field because he lost the ability to play center field," said Padres skipper Andy Green. "He moved to left field, because we have two true center fielders out there. He's been a real asset in left field, so sliding him back to center is not a stretch at all."
Entering 2016, Upton hadn't played an outfield position other than center since his rookie season in 2004. He's been brilliant in left this season, with +8 Defensive Runs Saved. But Jay's absence could necessitate a more permanent move to center.
"I've played there my whole career, so going back there wasn't much of a change," Upton said. "Obviously I've been in left all year, but center's a place like riding a bike, I guess."
His home run robbery Tuesday night came on the heels of the mammoth blast -- which ricocheted off the center-field batters' eye on the fly. At Petco Park, that's a spot reserved for the game's best power hitters.
With the 465-foot dinger, Upton passed his brother Justin Upton for the longest homer by a Padres hitter in the Statcast™ era -- and he cleared that mark by seven feet.
An inning later, Upton made sure Hardy wouldn't get in on the fun, and in the process, he added to his already impressive 2016 resume.
Upton has played some brilliant outfield defense, highlighted not only by the three homers he's stolen, but also by his eight outfield assists -- one shy of the National League lead.
Offensively, Upton recorded his 18th steal of the season Tuesday night, and he's also one of just two players in the Majors with two walk-off home runs this year.
"He's been a lot of fun to watch," Green said. "He competes. The walk-offs are exciting, the home-run robs ... and he swipes bags at will. He's doing a heck of a job for us."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.