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Rays' Upton finding power stroke again

B.J. Upton connects on a two-run homer in the seventh inning off White Sox starter John Danks. The blast carried an estimated 411 feet into the leftfield stands and was his second extra-base hit of the series, after a triple on Friday.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

B.J. Upton connects on a two-run homer in the seventh inning off White Sox starter John Danks. The blast carried an estimated 411 feet into the leftfield stands and was his second extra-base hit of the series, after a triple on Friday.

CHICAGO — CF B.J. Upton still isn't hitting the ball as often as he would like, going just 3-for-14, a .214 average, in the first three games of the AL Division Series.

But at least he is hitting the ball harder.

An impressive 411-foot two-run homer Sunday, after a well-struck triple in Game 2 on Friday, has Upton, who is playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, feeling better.

And the Rays are feeling better about what they see — and hear — from him.

"We were trying to back off in regard to his (batting practice) to get him strong again, and we've done that," manager Joe Maddon said. "He is starting to get that nice click in his bat, that nice bassy sound when he hits the ball."

Upton said the improved results are a product of feeling better and altering his approach, realizing he was "spinning off the ball" and returning to the plan of hitting the ball up the middle.

"I've made some minor adjustments, and hopefully I can continue to swing the bat the way I have been the last couple days," Upton said.

LINING UP: 1B Carlos Pena could see the difference Sunday when he retuned to the lineup after missing most of the first two games with blurriness in his left eye due to a scratched cornea. He went 2-for-5 and made several sharp plays at first base.

"I felt good," Pena said. "Actually I felt pretty normal, so I'm happy about that. I felt very comfortable and I was really happy to be back out there."

Rocco Baldelli started in right but batted eighth. Maddon said DH Willy Aybar matched up better with Sox starter John Danks, so he put him in the No. 6 spot behind Carl Crawford, but neither got a hit.

HISTORY MAKERS: Comeback wins have been a big part of the Rays' success, as they won a major-league-most 28 games after trailing by two or more runs. Now they've become the first team in major-league history to overcome deficits of two or more runs to win their first two postseason games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They also were just the second of the 14 expansion teams to win their first two postseason games, joining the 1985 Blue Jays.

HELP COMING: RHP Troy Percival threw an inning in an instructional league game Satur­day and likely will do so again today, hoping to return for a later round. "He said he felt pretty good," Maddon said.

Backup C Shawn Riggans continues to recover from right knee surgery, and the Rays say he could be ready for the next round, though he has yet to get into a full squat.

MISCELLANY: The Sox are the 12th team to win Game 3 after dropping the first two in Division Series play. … The Rays were trying to become the fifth team to sweep its first postseason series. … The Rays have never swept a series from the White Sox in 11 seasons of trying. … Since his 3-for-3 start with two homers, the Sox have held Evan Longoria to 1-for-7. … Jim Thome's fourth-inning double snapped a streak of 14 singles by the Sox. … Given the contingencies involved, the Rays planned to stay over in Chicago either way Sunday night. … The Rays are 40-42 on the road. … Bench coach Dave Martinez rejoined the team after missing Saturday's workout to attend to a family matter.

Rays' Upton finding power stroke again 10/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 6, 2008 7:45am]
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