J-Up posts 30-HR season the hard way

October 1st, 2016

ATLANTA -- Sometime during 's early-season struggles, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus claims he made a prediction.

"I don't know if I thought he'd get to 30 homers," Ausmus admitted after Friday's 6-2 win over the Braves, "but I did think -- as a matter of fact, I told [bullpen coach] Mick Billmeyer -- earlier in the season when Justin was scuffling that he'd get to 85 RBIs."

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He reached the RBI mark in large part due to the home runs. And after his solo shot Friday, he has his first 30-homer season since 2011, when he hit 31 with the D-backs playing for then-manager Kirk Gibson. Upton added his 31st homer of 2016 on Saturday.

He reached 30 by homering at Turner Field, his home park when he came close to the mark in both of his seasons in Atlanta. He hit 27 in 2013, then 29 the following season. He fell shy because he struggled for power down the stretch, hitting three homers in September both years. This time, it's his late-season surge carrying him.

Eighteen of Upton's 31 dingers have come since Aug. 21, along with 41 of his RBIs. Both of those totals lead the Majors in that span, along with a .782 slugging percentage. Moreover, Upton's 12 home runs in September were the most by a Tiger in that month since Hank Greenberg's 16 in September 1946, his final season as a Tiger.

Upton's numbers should get him strong consideration for American League Player of the Month honors. He already won AL Player of the Week last week.