Another big night for Tigers' Upton stokes offseason question

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — When it comes to Justin Upton, suspense is ever-present.

What will this at-bat bring? A home run 20 rows into the left-center field bleachers? A double off the fence at the 420-foot-mark? A homer down the line in left? A stinging single off the shortstop’s glove?

All of the above were the results of pitches Upton clubbed Friday night in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 8-5 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park.

For the 14th time in his 11 big-league seasons, Upton on Friday had a multi-homer game. For the sixth time this season, Upton, who next Friday turns 30, had a three-hit game.

And, of course, that begets yet another suspenseful question in Detroit: Will the Tigers’ left fielder decide at the end of this season to head for free agency, as is his contractual right?

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Upton has been sticking to his script. He says he’ll weigh his options in the autumn. Until then, he’ll focus on hitting.

And he is focusing very well.

“This year, when he steps into the batter’s box, it’s the way I felt when he stepped to the plate the last six weeks of last year,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who watched Upton torch pitchers during the final 40 games of the 2016 season.

“He’s on fire.”

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Upton is batting .285 on the year, with a .368 on-base percentage and a .913 OPS. He has 25 home runs and should beat his career-best in homers, 31, which he slammed last season and in 2011 when he was with the Diamondbacks.

Baseball’s marketplace has been cool to free-agent hitters and pitchers the past year, but the fire could rekindle if Upton keeps up this mayhem.

He had disappeared from the Tigers clubhouse early Friday night and couldn’t be debriefed on a whopper of a night. But his bat’s blasts seemed to linger in Comerica’s air. Upton has been hitting the ball long, and hard, and loudly.

And there’s no sign he’s letting up. @Lynn_Henning