B.J. Upton is in the midst of a hot streak at a key time for the Rays.
Tampa Bay Rays center fielder B.J. Upton came through early and often on Sunday.
How he did it
Two of Sunday's three homers were on the first pitch, including the first pitch of the game. That gave him six first-pitch homers on the year and 15 since the start of 2011.
That trails only Aramis Ramirez (16) over the past two seasons.
Upton's first-pitch batting average over that same span is now .421, and his OPS is 1.169. Both of those are in the top 10 of the American League.
Upton vs Curveballs
Upton's third homer, off Martin Perez's curveball, was his first this year on that pitch type and his second over the past two seasons.
Upton has seen a drop in production against curves over the past few seasons, offsetting gains that he has made against some other pitches (notably fastballs and changeups).
The difference can be seen in the chart on the right.
Of the 10 three-homer games this season, Upton's game ranked eighth in average distance, with his average homer going for "only" 397 feet on Sunday. The two that ranked lower were Curtis Granderson’s (366 feet), and Jason Kubel (395).
Upton is hitting .375 with six home runs, nine RBIs and five stolen bases in his last 11 games, albeit with 12 strikeouts.
He has three home runs against pitches that were over the outer-third of the plate or farther this month, including his first-pitch homer on Sunday.
He entered September with three homers on outer-third (or further away) pitches all season.
Did you know?
Prior to Upton, the last nine three-homer games by leadoff hitters were by players from National League teams.
The last American League leadoff hitter with a three-homer game prior to Upton was Ernie Young for the 1996 Athletics.
There has now been a three-homer game from a leadoff hitter in each of the past seven seasons.
From 1999 to 2005, there were no such games.
Doug Kern contributed to this blog post