Justin Upton has been “back” about a half dozen times already this season — spoiler alert: none of those proclamations were true — but Sunday afternoon felt like the real thing. One night after doubling off the center field wall, Upton hit two monster home runs to left to pace the Detroit Tigers offense in a big 10-5 win over the Boston Red Sox.
The Tigers took a little while to get going. Red Sox starter Henry Owens did not allow a ball in play in the first two innings, racking up five strikeouts and a caught stealing. He also gave up a pair of walks, though, which would foreshadow the fireworks to come.
Erick Aybar recorded the Tigers’ first hit in the bottom of the third inning. With third baseman Travis Shaw playing in on the infield grass, Aybar bounced a double over his head, moving Jarrod Saltalamacchia over to third with no outs. The Tigers looked like they were about to squander the golden opportunity after Ian Kinsler and Cameron Maybin failed to drive in a run, but Red Sox manager John Farrell elected to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera to face J.D. Martinez. As he has done so often lately, Martinez got the better of Owens, poking a two-run double into right field. Three pitches later, Upton hit his first homer of the game to make it 5-0.
Upton and the Tigers struck again two innings later. Cabrera started a two-out rally with a sharp single to center, then moved to third when J.D. Martinez doubled off the top of the left field wall. Farrell chose not to intentionally walk Upton, and paid again when the Tigers’ left fielder hit his second three-run homer of the day, another bomb to left field.
Meanwhile, Justin Verlander quietly dominated the Red Sox lineup. He only allowed one baserunner in scoring position through the first five innings, and did not concede a run until the top of the sixth when the Tigers were already up 8-0. The Red Sox made him earn his keep — Verlander threw 98 pitches in six innings — but he was able to hold them at bay.
The teams weren’t done scoring, though. James McCann and Aybar singled off reliever Junichi Tazawa in the sixth inning, and the recently-activated Maybin brought them home with a two-out single up the middle, making the score 10-1. The Red Sox scored four runs of their own in the seventh off reliever Shane Greene, capped off by the first career home run from Boston’s Andrew Benintendi.
Justin Upton: Two homers, six RBI, and one large fanbase that is now very hopeful we’re finally seeing the Upton breakout we’ve anticipated for five months.
The rest of the offense: Every Tigers starter reached base in this game.
Justin Verlander: Losing the shutout was a disappointment, but Verlander lowered his ERA to 3.38 with another excellent outing. Final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO
Shane Greene: I really wanted this to be a hiss-free game, but Greene’s inning of work was pretty bad.
STATS AND REACTIONS:
- I don’t know that there is a more aesthetically pleasing Tiger to watch homer than Justin Upton. It just looks violent when he connects on a pitch like he did twice in this game.
- Speaking of Upton, this finally feels like that breakout we’ve been waiting for. Between Saturday’s 419 1⁄2 foot double and the two moonshots he launched on Sunday, he might finally be rounding into form.
- Justin Verlander had one of the most quietly dominant performances I’ve ever seen in this game.
- J.D. Martinez is red. Effing. Hot. I get why Farrell decided to intentionally walk Cabrera in the third, but this goes to show how dangerous this Tigers lineup can be when it is on.
- I propose the Tigers find themselves an Andrew Benintendi.
- Saying that Cameron Maybin is a sparkplug for this team is nothing but feelingsball — their record with him in the lineup is probably due to his 119 wRC+, not his smile and fun hand motions — but it sure does seem like he is.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: