Justin Upton turned the Chase Field crowd around about as decisively as he turned around a Jason Vargas fastball Wednesday.
Upton was booed with some ferocity after striking out in the eighth inning Tuesday, and he heard it to a lesser extent after striking out in the first inning Wednesday. But his 457-foot home run brought the home crowd to its feet in the fifth inning against Seattle, when he broke a 5-5 tie and helped the Diamondbacks to a 14-10 victory.
"They've enjoyed booing me the last two months, but I've got to give them something to cheer about," said Upton, off to a slow start this season after finishing fourth in the NL MVP race with a career year in 2011.
"I haven't given them much to cheer about."
Manager Kirk Gibson said before the game that he was curious to see how Upton would handle the negativity that has seeped into the home crowd. After a 31-homer, 88-RBI season in 2011, Upton had six homers and 24 RBI through 68 games. Gibson and hitting coach Don Baylor, both booed during their long careers, planned to counsel Upton about it.
"He feels a lot of pressure. That (booing) worries me a little bit," Gibson said.
"It's not going to help him. But at the same time, it introduces a new dimension into his growth as a player. He's got to remain determined, and he has to power through it. It's something different. It hurts. There's nobody trying harder than Justin. It will be a good test of his character and his ability to get through this."
Gibson said he was booed heavily at times at Tiger Stadium in 1983 as he struggled to live up to the lofty comparison to Mickey Mantle that Detroit manager Sparky Anderson made when Gibson was drafted in the first round several years before. People who view booing as a motivational tool are misguided, Gibson said.
"You're motivated all the time, so if someone boos you, you don't get more motivated. It's something where you have to not let it upset you."
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