Upton Jr.'s hard work paying dividends
SAN DIEGO -- Melvin Upton Jr. had his best performance yet as a Padre as San Diego defeated the Braves on Tuesday night, 9-0, inching one step closer to just their second series sweep of the season.
Upton Jr. blasted two homers to left field and finished the night with five RBIs.
"Melvin's been kind of quietly getting some key hits, contributing to some wins, but that was a breakout performance," Padres interim manager Pat Murphy said. "The hitting coaches are working with Melvin every day. Letting him play all three games in Colorado was by design. He's put together some good at-bats. I think it's a combination of what he's done in the cage with our guys and some confidence."
Murphy added the fact that Upton Jr. missing Spring Training this season contributed to the reason why it has taken the center fielder some time to find the consistency at the plate that he has had recently. Upton Jr. said within the last month he has noticed a change in his swing.
"When I play, I am in there and grinding, and when I am not [playing], I am doing the same. I haven't swung the bat the way I have particularly wanted to, but I don't feel like my at-bats have been completely terrible at the same time," Upton Jr. said. "I think it's just a product of the work I have put in and the hitting coaches being behind me, helping me believe in what I am doing, and it's good to see a flash of it tonight."
However, Upton Jr. wasn't in the original lineup for the Padres, as Will Venable was suppose to start in center field and bat sixth before being traded to Texas a couple of hours before first pitch. The Padres also will call up Travis Jankowski on Wednesday, with the club's No. 5-ranked prospect possibly splitting time with Upton Jr.
"Bringing a young kid up, he's got to play," Murphy said. "Melvin's kind of a made a statement the last few games, so there will be room for both of them to play a lot."
Upton Jr.'s performance Tuesday marked his seventh career multi-home run game and first since June 15, 2012, when he was with the Braves. Tuesday also was a season high in RBIs for the the 10-year veteran, who last contributed with five-plus RBIs on Sept. 3, 2011, while with the Rays.
Although sibling Justin Upton has hit four home runs with Melvin on base, Upton Jr.'s homer in the sixth inning scored his younger brother for the first time in his career.
"Finally, the big brother drove the little brother in for a change," Upton Jr. said.