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UPTON'S POSTSEASON IS DRAWING RAVES

The centerfielder is hitting for power, driving in runs and stealing bases.

In the American League Championship Series, B.J. Upton made history by slugging home runs.

In the World Series, the Rays centerfielder reached the record books with his speed.

Upton had three stolen bases in a Game 3 loss to the Phillies, tying the World Series single-game record set by Hall of Famers Lou Brock (Cardinals) and Honus Wagner (Pirates), as well as Dodgers outfielder Willie Davis, whom Rays senior adviser Don Zimmer said had a similar stride to Upton.

Leftfielder Carl Crawford said that Upton's performance in the postseason, which included seven homers and 16 RBIs heading into Sunday's Game 4, "is inspiring us all." Upton, 24, would trade records for a World Series ring but still let his latest honor sink in.

"It's pretty cool - those guys did a lot for baseball," Upton said of Brock, Wagner and Davis. "They're great baseball players. Any time you can be mentioned in the same sentence as either one of those guys, it's an honor. It's something you dream about to have an opportunity to play in the World Series."

Upton has supplied plenty of postseason offense. His 16 RBIs are three shy of the major-league record and his seven homers are tied for most by an AL player; but as the Rays continued to play small ball in the World Series (six of their first nine runs came on groundouts or sacrifice flies), Upton provided the spark.

Saturday, Upton started the tying rally in the eighth with an infield single. Upton, who was booed by Rays fansthis season for perceived lack of hustle, then stole second and third base. On Upton's attempt toward third, catcher Carlos Ruiz's throwing error allowed him to score the tying run.

"I think he's really thriving in this moment right now," Crawford said of Upton. "We're all trying to thrive in it. But when you've got a special talent like that, and he really wants to be in there, you see things like what we've been seeing happen."

Teammates point to his defense, like Upton's over-the-shoulder catch in Game 3. With Upton's five steals, the Rays set a single-postseason record with 22 stolen bases, topping the mark set by the 1975 Reds and matched by the 1992 Braves.

"He's unique," manager Joe Maddon said of Upton. "You're seeing power, hitting for average, on-base percentage, the OPS, the defense, the arm, the speed, and again I can't emphasize this enough, he is just learning. He's making a lot better decisions as this year has been in progress."

Said rightfielder Gabe Gross: "He is in my mind, without a doubt, one of the top centerfielders in the game

Joe Smith can be reached atjoesmith@sptimes.com

On the run

B.J. Upton tied a Series record Saturday by stealing three bases in a game, and he matched another as the 12th player to steal two in one inning. The top thieves:

Player, team Series

B.J. Upton, Rays 2008

Lou Brock, Cards 1968

Lou Brock, Cards 1967

Willie Davis, Dodgers 1965

Honus Wagner, Pirates 1909

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