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Upton ties home run mark

A double hit by Boston’s J.D. Drew eludes Rays rightfielder Gabe Gross during the fifth inning. Gross, who has not excelled defensively on several key hits the past two games and has struggled at the plate, came out for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half.

Associated Press

A double hit by Boston’s J.D. Drew eludes Rays rightfielder Gabe Gross during the fifth inning. Gross, who has not excelled defensively on several key hits the past two games and has struggled at the plate, came out for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half.

ST. PETERSBURG — The technical difficulties that kept TBS off the air for the first 20 minutes of Saturday's Game 6 kept their viewers from seeing B.J. Upton's latest swing at history.

Upton's first-inning homer was his seventh of the postseason, tying the American League record held by Troy Glaus of the 2002 Angels and leaving him one behind overall record co-holders Barry Bonds (2002 Giants) and Carlos Beltran (2004 Astros).

Upton also tied the overall LCS record with 11 RBIs, matching the production of Boston's David Ortiz during the 2004 ALCS with the Yankees. Upton, through his first two at-bats Saturday had 15 RBIs for the postseason; the overall record is 19, shared by Ortiz, Sandy Alomar of the 1997 Indians and Scott Spiezio of the 2002 Angels.

Upton's surge in productivity is the product of his injured left shoulder — which will require off-season surgery to repair a torn labrum — feeling better.

Beyond that, he said it's just a matter of being selective and in a groove.

"I just go up there and swing the bat," Upton said Friday. "I'm seeing the ball pretty well right now and I'm not missing my pitches. I think that's probably the biggest thing for me. When they're making mistakes right now, I'm making them pay for it."

HOPE AND FAITH: Manager Joe Maddon showed his loyalty when he started Gabe Gross in rightfield despite his 0-for-9 showing in the ALCS and 1-for-15 (.067) mark in the postseason, saying he thought Gross was "over-thinking" and could soon come out his slump, which started in September.

But when Gross struck out, and looked bad in doing so, in his first at-bat Saturday then had trouble on a J.D. Drew drive to right, Maddon decided it was time for a change and used Ben Zobrist as a pinch-hitter.

When Maddon wrote Gross' name on the lineup card rather than putting Rocco Baldelli or rookie Fernando Perez in rightfield, he was showing faith in a struggling player who was a key player during the season and hoping he would soon break out of it.

RETURN OF TROY: RHP Troy Percival is expected to return to St. Petersburg today and "absolutely" remains a possibility to be added to the World Series roster.

Percival went home to California after not being added to the ALCS roster to deal with some family matters.

"No question there's a benefit to having him here," Maddon said. "But when he explained to me the situation at home, and the fact he wasn't playing, I thought it was more important he did that for right now. And I know he feels better about it.

"If he was active, obviously, it's a different moment. But he's not, and he had these things he felt he really needed to attend to, so there's no way I'd want him to stay over that.

RIGGANS ALMOST READY: Backup C Shawn Riggans said his recovery from right knee surgery has gone well and "it's definitely a possibility" he could return for the World Series. "It's coming along," he said. "Every day it's getting better and better. Maybe Joe might have a decision to make here in a couple days."

HONORARIUM: 3B Evan Lon­goria is among three finalists for the Players Choice AL Outstanding Rookie Award, along with Royals SS Mike Aviles and White Sox 2B Alexei Ramirez.

Percival is a finalist for the AL comeback player of the year, with Texas' Josh Hamilton and Cleveland's Cliff Lee. Winners will be announced next week.

MISCELLANY: The Rays not only removed the upper deck tarps to increase capacity by nearly 6,000 but also sold about 200 standing room only tickets for Saturday's game. … Today's potential Game 7 sold out by early Saturday. … Baldelli's dad flew down Saturday morning from Providence, R.I., and said "there were 110 people on the plane and 100 were Red Sox fans."

Upton ties home run mark 10/18/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 9:05pm]

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