Don't call it a comeback just yet, but B.J. Upton continued to show signs of improvement today from his perch atop the Rays lineup. After falling behind (bad) 0-1 in his first at-bat, Upton worked the count even at 2-2 before grounding out to Melvin Mora. This is the rolling over of the ball that we talked about yesterday. Upton would come to the plate in the third inning and again fall behind 0-1 after fouling the first pitch off. However, on the fourth pitch of the AB he laced a line drive single to centerfield, but would be stranded.
Upton worked a seven pitch at bat in the fifth inning that ended in him turning in a low inside fastball and placing a line drive down the left field line. He was nearly thrown out at second base as the throw beat him to the bag, but an off balance Brian Roberts and a nifty slide to the back side of the bag helped him reach base safely. Upton would go 2-3 off of the O's starter Brad Bergesen, who is not an over powering right hander. He would look overmatched in his next plate appearance against the hard throwing Chris Ray, who struck Upton out on five pitches, all fastballs ranging from 94-96. Upton took two hard cuts and missed both times. This is the timing problem that has been killing Upton.
In a similar situation in the 8th inning, Upton would struggle against another hard throwing right hander in Bob McCrory. With runners on second and third and one out, Upton swung on a first pitch fastball. He made contact, but again a ground ball out to third base. Akinori Iwamura would be thrown out at home as he was running on contact and Upton would reach on a fielder's choice.
The Rays bats exploded for four runs in the ninth inning including a two out RBI single for Upton. Facing McCrory for the second time, B.J. worked another even 2-2 count and took a middle in fastball at 96 mph right back up the middle scoring Jason Bartlett, who had another three hit night including his career high tying 5th home run of the season. All in all it wasn't quite 2007 B.J. Upton; however he did see 27 pitches and went 3-6 with a double and an RBI. Its baby steps; let's try and put back to back games together.
The other regression case we've been talking about is Dioner Navarro. No, Navi hasn't quite turned around his season, but like Upton there are signs of life in his bat. Navi went 1-3 last night with two RBI and two sacrifice outs. In the sixth inning he hit a sac-fly to give the Rays a two run cushion. In the ninth inning he nearly knocked out McCrory on a sharp hit up the middle plating Willy Aybar. In his last 28 plate appearances, he is hitting .292 with an OBP of .333. One thing that still sticks out is Navi's unwillingness to walk. He has just two free passes in 114 plate appearances and is swinging at 27% of pitches out of the zone. Take a page out of Carl Crawford's book, Navi; the walk is your friend.