Cleveland — It seems like there has been some kind of paradigm shift within the Upton family.
Suddenly, big brother Melvin Upton, Jr. of the Padres is the one drawing rave reviews across baseball and creating some All-Star buzz. And younger brother Justin is the one answering questions about his struggles.
“I am really happy for him, man,” Justin said before the game. “He really deserves this.”
Melvin hit a 440-foot walk-off home run off Andrew Miller to beat the Yankees Sunday. It was his 13th home run of the season, five more than Justin, and his third walk-off blast.
Justin had himself a good day Sunday, too. His eighth-inning double plated the winning runs in the Tigers’ 5-1 win.
“I felt like I had been swinging the bat well,” he said after the game. “I didn’t get rewarded for it at home. Just keep grinding. It’s part of the game.
Sometimes you square balls up and you don’t get hits. That’s what makes the game so tough.
“I got one to fall. It was nice to give us a lead right there.”
The brothers played together the last three years — two in Atlanta and then last year in San Diego. In those three years, Justin flourished at the plate while Melvin floundered.
The irony of it all wasn’t lost on Justin earlier this year when he got a hang-in-there message from his brother.
“He texted me early on telling me what he saw,” Justin laughed.
That used to be Justin’s job.
“Other than that, though, he hasn’t said too much,” Justin said. “He knows how baseball is. Even when you are feeling good, you still make outs. It’s just part of it.”
In 2013, the first year the brothers were together in Atlanta, Justin hit .263 with 27 homers and 70 RBIs. Melvin hit just .184. The same thing happened in 2014. Justin got some MVP consideration with 29 home runs and 102 RBIs while Melvin barely hit .200 (.208).
“It’s just baseball,” Justin said. “When you are going through it, you’re going through it. I know all about that right now.”
He was asked if maybe Melvin’s struggles were exacerbated by the pressure of playing alongside his younger brother.
“I don’t think so,” Justin said. “I know for me, I enjoyed it. It was fun, no matter how things were going. You still are out there every day, you still have that cool opportunity (to play with your brother). I personally enjoyed it.”
It certainly helped that the Braves made the playoffs in 2013.
“Winning cures anything,” Upton said. “That year in Atlanta when we went to the playoffs, there were no problems. When you are not winning, that’s when they start pointing fingers. It just comes with the territory.
“If we weren't winning right now, people would be wearing me out even worse than they are.”
Speaking of swapping roles. When the Indians swept the Tigers at Comerica a couple of weeks ago, the Tigers bullpen was in tatters. Arms were overused and weary.
On Monday, it was the Indians who had to make some quick alterations to bring in fresh arms after enduring a 19-inning game on Friday, then a 17-1 loss on Sunday. They designated for assignment a pair of former Tigers — right-hander Joba Chamberlain and left-hander Tom Gorzelanny.
They recalled right-hander Mike Clevinger and left-hander T.J. House.
The Tigers, meanwhile, came out of their four-game sweep in Tampa with a well-rested bullpen.
“A week ago, all of our arms were tired,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Now we are in much better shape.”
Bruce Rondon worked out of a bases loaded-one out jam in the eighth inning Sunday and picked up his second win of the season.
Ausmus said that he is comfortable now using him in a high-leverage situation like that, and also as a sixth-inning bridge to get to Shane Green, Justin Wilson and closer Francisco Rodriguez.
Ausmus was asked about the 15 pounds Rondon lost while he was in Toledo.
“I’m glad he lost 15 pounds, but I am happier he wanted to lose 15 pounds,” he said. “That he went about his business, his workouts, with the intent on getting in shape was big. That he lost the 15 pounds is great. But I’m happier with his mindset of wanting to be in shape.”
Around the horn
Ausmus was asked if there was a common denominator in the nine straight losses to the Indians. “The common denominator is they played better than us,” he said. “They hit better, pitched better, played better. They do have excellent starting pitchers, but even when we got the starting pitching – they beat (Justin) Verlander 2-1. They just played better.”
Tigers at Indians
First pitch: 7:10 Tuesday, Progressive Field, Cleveland
RHP Anibal Sanchez (5-8, 6.05), Tigers: Desperate measures for desperate times. Anibal Sanchez, twice removed from the rotation, gets the call after Jordan Zimmermann was placed on the DL with a neck strain. Sanchez gave up a pair of home runs in the first inning and was gone after five innings on June 25 against the Indians. In 12 starts this season, he has a 6.71 ERA and a 1.654 WHIP. In nine relief appearances, his ERA is 2.84 with a 1.184 WHIP.
RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 2.56), Indians: He threw a four-hit shutout against the Tigers at Comerica Park on June 25. He struck out seven and walked one. All four hits came off his fastball. The Tigers couldn’t touch his change-up (44 pitches), curveball (20), sinker (eight) or slider (two).