Tigers top Red Sox
DETROIT >> Justin Upton knows he is a talented major league hitter.
Sunday, he might have started to prove it once again.
Upton hit a pair of three-run homers and the struggling Detroit Tigers finished their homestand with a 10-5 win over the Boston Red Sox.
"This was a good day," he said. "It's my brother's birthday, Mom and Dad are here and my wife and kid are here."
Upton struggled in the final four months of 2015, but still impressed the Tigers enough to earn a nine-digit contract in free agency. Things hadn't gone any better in Detroit, though.
From June 1, 2015 through Saturday — a stretch of 213 games — he was hitting .228, and was mired in another slump, going 3 for 35 with 11 strikeouts in his last 10.
Upton's only recent extra-base hit was Saturday night's double off the top of the center-field fence that narrowly missed tying the game.
Upton went into his home-run trot too early that time — he was nearly thrown out at second — but it wasn't a problem in the series finale. Both homers cleared the bullpens before landing deep in the left-field seats.
"I wasn't putting pressure on myself, but I wanted to perform," he said. "At the end of the day, no one wants to struggle, and I was kind of buried in it. But my teammates have always picked me up, which is why this was great."
Upton's big game was a welcome sight for Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who has been trying to solve a lengthy offensive funk.
"You never know by one swing of the bat, but I feel a lot better about him right now than I did previously," he said.
The Tigers won for just the fourth time in 14 games, and went 2-5 on their stay at Comerica Park. Boston has lost just two of its last 10.
J.D. Martinez had a pair of doubles for the Tigers.
Justin Verlander (13-7) allowed one run on three hits in six innings before being pulled with a nine-run lead. He is 6-1 in his last 10 starts.
"This was a big game, especially against a team we're trying to catch," Verlander said. "We're a really good ballclub that is a little hobbled right now, so to come out of here with a split was big."
Henry Owens (0-1) didn't find out he was pitching until late Saturday night and didn't arrive in Detroit from Triple-A until the early morning hours. He gave up eight runs on six hits and five walks in five innings.
Eduardo Rodriguez was expected to return from a hamstring injury to pitch, but felt discomfort during Saturday's game, so Owens was summoned from Pawtucket.
In the third, the Tigers put runners on second and third with no outs. With two outs, Boston manager John Farrell decided to walk Miguel Cabrera to load the bases for Martinez.
Martinez came into the game hitting .438 since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 3, and he poked a 1-2 pitch down the right-field line for a two-run double.
"That's definitely a case of picking your poison, and I don't normally like to load the bases on my pitcher," Farrell said. "I just thought Owens had a better chance of attacking Martinez, and he got him to chase a 1-2 pitch outside."
"But he gets it inside the bag, and after that, it is the Justin Upton show," he said.
Upton followed with a homer to make it 5-0.
Martinez doubled again in his next at-bat, putting runners on second and third with two out in the fifth, and Upton hit his 15th homer.
The Red Sox scored four times off Shane Greene in the seventh, including a two-run homer by Andrew Benintendi, the first of his career.
"That was pretty cool, especially because my family was here to see it," said Benintendi, who had hit his first career triple off Verlander earlier.
"I wasn't sure it was going to get out until I saw J.D. give up on it. After that, I just wanted to run fast enough to avoid any trouble. You can't jog on your first one," he said.
In his last scheduled game in Detroit, David Ortiz hit a 111-mph drive down the right-field line in the first. Instead of settling for his usual single, he took second on Martinez, leading to a joking exchange between the Red Sox star and Verlander after the inning.
"We've had a lot of battles," Verlander said. "That was just one of them."
Ortiz batted for the final time in the eighth and received long standing ovations both before and after he grounded out. He tipped his cap to the crowd as he walked off.
Red Sox: INF Devin Marrero was optioned back to Pawtucket to clear room for Owens.
Tigers: OF Cameron Maybin (thumb) was activated from the disabled list after feeling comfortable in a simulated game against Jordan Zimmermann on Sunday morning. Zimmermann (neck) is expected to make a rehab start for Triple-A Toledo next weekend.
Red Sox: Boston travels to Tampa Bay on Monday, with former Ray David Price (11-8, 4.19) facing his old team in the opener. Blake Snell (4-5, 3.06) is scheduled to start for Tampa Bay.
Tigers: Off on Monday before starting a three-game series in Minnesota on Tuesday. Anibal Sanchez (6-12, 5.94) will face Kyle Gibson (5-7, 4.90). Sanchez is coming off seven shutout innings in his last start.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.