Pointing to his knee and bent over at the waist, Justin Upton looked more done than hero-in-waiting after colliding with the right-field fence chasing a Miguel Cairo triple in the third inning Sunday.
“I thought we were going to have to replace him,” admitted Tony Clark, who witnessed the crash from first base. “That’s a sensitive area.”
But Upton walked it off and remained in the game, and he and Clark had two-run hits in a four-run seventh inning as the D-Backs concluded a pivotal homestand with five straight victories by holding off St. Louis, 6-5.
The D-Backs, a game behind San Diego in the NL West after losing to the Padres Monday, won the final two games of that series and find themselves three games up entering a three-game series in San Francisco after the first three-game sweep of St. Louis in franchise history.
“When a streak comes, you want to make it last as long as you can,” Upton said.
“It’s awesome to be able to contribute.”
Upton’s two-run home run off reliever Ryan Franklin followed a leadoff double by Chris Snyder in the seventh inning, tying the game at 4.
Jeff Salazar followed with a double and Eric Byrnes walked with two outs before Clark lined a two-run double down the right-field line to make it 6-4 in the D-Backs’ 36th comefrom-behind victory this season.
“This team knows how to win,” Byrnes said.
“This is a very competitive group of guys who don’t like to lose. At no point do we feel like we are going to lose. We have a lot of belief in our ability to get runs when we need to.”
St. Louis threatened in the ninth inning off closer Jose Valverde when David Eckstein walked with the bases loaded after a two-out double by Jim Edmonds, a walk to Albert Pujols and a hit batter.
But Valverde got 2006 World Series hero Yadier Molina to fly out to right field for his major league-leading 45th save.
Upton’s home run was his first since Aug. 7, his first game at Chase Field after being called up five days earlier and a game in which he was a single short of becoming the youngest player in major league history to hit for the cycle.
“Home runs don’t come easily. To get one is something to look forward to,” Upton said.
Upton was trying to protect a two-run lead built on Chris Young’s 29th home run of the season when he ran into the fence in the Cardinals’ four-run third inning.
After former D-Back Brian Barden doubled to put runners on second and third against Doug Davis, Cairo hit a long fly to right field that Upton chased, never seeming to acknowledge the fence.
“It was a big situation. With guys on, I was going to do whatever I had to do to get the ball,” said Upton, making his first start in four games after Salazar had played the previous three.
Upton drove his left kneecap into a support post along the right field fence and immediately tried to run it off before manager Bob Melvin and trainer Ken Crenshaw went out for a visit. After testing his knee with a quick sprint, Upton stayed in.
“When the pain subsided, it was OK,” Upton said.