PHOENIX Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson admitted Wednesday night that his club had just been outplayed in all facets by the San Diego Padres, from pitching to hitting to defense. No one seemed more overmatched, though, than right fielder Justin Upton.
Upton suffered his latest poor offensive series as San Diego swept the D-backs. Upton went 1 for 14 in three games against the Padres to give him only two hits in his past 24 at-bats. He has six strikeouts in that stretch, including one Wednesday in an 0-for-5 showing.
It was the second time this season Upton has gone hitless in five at-bats in front of a home crowd. Just as it did last time, the performance incited substantial booing from the Chase Field crowd, only this time it was a sold-out Independence Day crowd.
"To be honest, I dont care what the fans think of me," Upton said, offering a stronger reaction than he did previously. "My teammates, my coaches they know I come in here and bust it every single day. I come in here and try to do everything I can to help my team.
"Whatever fans want to think, they can think. They can call me lazy I've heard that in the outfield. They can call me washed up, whatever they want to call me. But at the end of the day, I'm thankful for every opportunity I get to come out here on the baseball field and I try my hardest every day."
Gibson, too, defended Upton's effort. Until the Milwaukee series, Upton had been hitting better, collecting multiple hits in six of seven games. He is now batting .263 with 34 RBI, seven home runs and a .346 on-base percentage.
"It's not that he's not trying, not working hard before the game starts," Gibson said. "I mean, look at the effort on the ball that ticked off his glove. The guy's playing his tail off. Is it the results he wants or the results everyone expects of him? No, but sometimes the game is a very cruel thing."
The ball Gibson was referring to came in the eighth inning Wednesday. Reliever David Hernandez left a fastball at the knees of San Diego batter Yasmani Grandal, and Grandal hit it deep to right field. Upton tracked the ball and jumped up at the fence to try to save a home run, but the ball deflected off the tip of his glove and over the fence. The two-run homer broke a 4-4 tie.
Upton has made a few solid defensive plays lately, but it's offense that the fans remember. As the team's franchise player and one who finished fourth in the National League MVP voting last season, Upton comes with a different set of expectations than someone like fellow outfielder Chris Young, who went 1 for 11 in the series and is hitting .206 but has yet to hear significant booing this season.
"(Upton) is a superstar player, so they expect (results)," said Ian Kennedy, the D-backs' starting pitcher Wednesday. "And (Upton) expects that of himself. I think it's harder on him."
Kennedy can empathize with the ire directed at Upton from playing in New York, where Kennedy said fans are quicker to boo. Kennedy was a highly touted prospect and struggled with the Yankees, whose fans often show little patience.
"Here, (the fans) take a little while to do that," Kennedy said. "They're not quick to do that. Our fans are really good fans, but it's hard to watch your fellow teammate get booed when you know he's trying as hard as he can. He's come through in big situations before, but it's not always easy to produce every time."
Gibson can also relate, as he did two weeks ago in sharing his experience playing for the Tigers in 1983.
"I remember what it was like," Gibson said Wednesday. "I'd say 'Oh, it doesn't bother me,' but nobody wants to be booed. (Upton) has played his tail off. He's frustrated."
The start of fresh series against the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday offers Upton a chance to get out of his latest funk. It also provides the D-backs an opportunity to bury a five-game losing streak and start climbing up the NL West standings. After the loss Wednesday, the D-backs sit six games back of the Dodgers and 5 12 behind the second-place Giants.
"We'd like to put this one away, look forward to the Dodgers and kind of erase this," Kennedy said. "It's hard to do that, but we need to play better all around."
Added Gibson: "It's no discredit to our team, but we just got outplayed this series. We've got another series tomorrow, a big four-game series with the Dodgers, and we'll regroup."