Friday, August 12, 2011

Nady fractures left hand

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/12/11

PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said that Xavier Nady was playing the best baseball he had all year, that his bat was getting quick and that he was beginning to swing a power stick.

But after getting hit and fracturing his left hand in the second inning of Friday's 4-3 win over the Mets, it appears the D-backs are going to be without Nady for an extended period of time.

"It's a big blow to us," Gibson said. "He was playing great. ... He had a great role on the team with his veteran [leadership]."

The 32-year-old veteran was hit by right-hander Dillon Gee on a 1-2 pitch, but stayed in the game and scored on a Cody Ransom double two batters later. He was lifted for Paul Goldschmidt in the top of the third.

"He got drilled, broke his hand at the end of his knuckle or finger," Gibson said. "When I looked at it, it was black.

"I haven't heard how long [he'll be out]."

Nady was hitting .248 in 81 games, with four home runs and 35 RBIs. He is a career .275 hitter over 10 seasons with five teams.

Extra work paying off for Goldschmidt

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/12/11

PHOENIX -- Paul Goldschmidt doesn't think as many people knew about his home run against the Astros on Thursday night.

"I had a few texts," he said. "But I had more for my debut."

Goldschmidt said he was greeted by about 20 text messages after his ninth-inning, pinch-hit, game-tying home run to send the game into extra innings, where Chris Young eventually ended it in walk-off fashion for an 8-5 victory in 10 innings.

"There's a lot of guys from [Double-A] Mobile that I keep in touch with, and family members and stuff like that," he said.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson thinks the home run was a product of the time the rookie first baseman has put in trying to improve at the plate.

"The kid really asks a lot of questions, and he's had a lot of conversations," Gibson said on Thursday. "He's put in extra work -- is trying to understand at-bats, breaking balls -- and he battled."

In a 2-2 count, after fouling off another Mark Melancon breaking ball with a good swing, the Astros' right-handed closer left a fastball over the middle of the plate that Goldschmidt crushed.

"The second breaking ball he fouled off, he had a pretty good swing on," Gibson said. "Then, [Melancon] tried to get the fastball in, and he's very quick in there. That's a big at-bat from a youngster, there."

And while Goldschmidt didn't know how much he could draw from that at-bat, he said, "It doesn't hurt, that's for sure."

Bloomquist's at-bat keys rally vs. Houston

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/12/11

PHOENIX -- Lost in the aftermath of a dramatic walk-off win on Thursday night was an eighth-inning walk that set the wheels in motion for another D-backs comeback.

Trailing, 5-1, with one out against Astros right-hander Brett Myers, who kept the D-backs' offense in check most of the night, shortstop Willie Bloomquist drew a nine-pitch walk.

"It was huge," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He just kind of kept grinding pitches away. And when you're on the other side, you're looking for a quick inning. And then, all of a sudden, it was us giving notice that it wasn't going to be the case."

Bloomquist fell behind 0-2 -- taking a strike before fouling two off, then drawing three balls and fouling off two pitches, before reaching base on a low fastball.

"I was just trying to get a pitch to handle," Bloomquist said. "He didn't give me much to hit all day. He was on the edge of the plate all day long and didn't leave a whole lot over the middle of the plate.

"He threw pretty much the kitchen sink at me. I was trying to get something over the plate that I could put good wood on. But he just kept throwing everything on the edge, and the best I could do was foul it off. And I ended up getting into a full count and walked."

Bloomquist checked his swing twice on breaking balls, reached base and scored a batter later after Ryan Roberts doubled. Miguel Montero then drove Roberts home with a two-out single, and the D-backs cut a four-run deficit to two and Myers was pulled.

Saunders looks back on effort vs. Astros

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/12/11

PHOENIX -- For the last couple of starts, Joe Saunders could have used a Band-Aid on the mound.

"Looking back," he said, assessing Thursday night's start against the Astros, "there was maybe one decently hard-hit ball and, other than that, it was off the end of the bat, broken bats, bloopers to right, bloopers up the middle and seeing-eye ground balls."

Saunders pitched into the seventh before being removed, after allowing back-to-back hits to score a run to open the inning. The D-backs eventually won, 8-5.

His final line was six-plus innings pitched, with five runs allowed on 11 hits and a pair of strikeouts and walks.

"You do your job, make your pitches, and that's all you can ask for," the left-hander said.

He allowed a third-inning RBI single to Carlos Lee, and got himself into trouble in the fifth by walking Brett Myers to open the inning. A two-run double by J.D. Martinez and an RBI groundout by Lee later, and the Astros had a 4-0 lead.

"They're a tough team to pitch to, honestly," Saunders said. "We found that out with our other guys.

"It was a battle out there," he continued. "I tried to keep us in the ballgame the best I could, and got as many outs as I could."

Saunders is 8-9 on the season with a 3.76 ERA.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Walk-off shot pads D-backs' West lead

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/11/11

PHOENIX -- Chris Young wasn't thinking when he stepped to the plate late in a tie game Thursday night.

He wasn't thinking about his mechanics, his three hitless at-bats earlier in the game, the 32 games since he's hit a home run or the recent slump that he's tried to will himself out of.

"I just wanted to hit the ball hard," he said.

And with two on, one out and Chase Field still buzzing from a game-tying home run an inning earlier, Young saw a pitch, hit it hard and sent it over the fence in left field for a walk-off home run in an 8-5 victory over the Astros. It was the D-backs' 30th comeback win of the season

"It felt amazing, I"m not going to lie," Young said. "The stars lined up for us tonight."

With the win, the D-backs took a four-game set from the Astros and, more importantly, a one-game lead over the Giants in the National League West.

"That makes you smile," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of the win. "That whole team, we played very well when it counted."

Young's fifth career walk-off home run came on a 1-0 count against Astros left-hander Sergio Escalona, who was summoned a batter earlier by Astros manager Brad Mills.

"They left the lefty in the game and I think that's my at-bat," Young said. "I think I had to try to find a way to take advantage of it before it gets to Kelly [Johnson] and I'm happy I was able to."

But before Young could take advantage of Escalona, rookie Paul Goldschmidt had to take advantage of Astros closer Mark Melancon in the ninth inning, with the D-backs down to their final out and trailing, 5-3.

Goldschmidt was called on to pinch-hit against the right-hander, took two balls and two strikes and fouled off two pitches before launching a fastball off the facade of the upper deck in left field to tie the game.

"I was just trying to go in there and battle," he said. "He left a fastball up and out over the plate and I was glad to hit it."

The home run drew a curtain call from the crowd and closer J.J. Putz from the bullpen, who sat down the Astros in order in the 10th inning.

"It's exciting, obviously," Goldschmidt said, "But we had to go out there and shut it down and J.J. did that, and then we got a couple guys on and [Young] was able to get that big hit."

The big hit was Young's 17th home run of the season and first since July 2 against the A's.

"It's been a few days, huh?" Young joked. "It hasn't been that long.

"I've gone through streaks where I hadn't hit a home run in a month and I've gone through streaks when I've hit seven in a week so it happens," he said. "Just because I don't have a home run in a while, I'm not going to go to the plate to try to hit a home run. You're trying to hit the ball hard and if it goes over the fence, it goes over the fence."

For the third time in the four-game set, the D-backs fell behind early, this time on a third-inning RBI single from Carlos Lee, a fifth-inning two-run double by J.D. Martinez and an RBI groundout from Lee against left-hander Joe Saunders.

In the fifth, Saunders ran into trouble by walking counterpart Brett Myers to lead off the inning and allowing back-to-back singles to Jason Bourgeois and Jose Altuve to load to bases before the Astros plated three and staked claim to a 4-0 lead.

The D-backs broke through against Myers a half-inning later with an RBI single from Willie Bloomquist to cut the lead to three. Saunders pitched into the seventh inning before being removed after a Bourgeois triple found its way under a diving Justin Upton's glove in right and Altuve singled him home a batter later.

"Joe threw the ball good," Gibson said. "He had some tough luck, things didn't go well, but he threw fine."

Saunders went six-plus innings, allowed five runs on 11 hits, struck out two and walked two.

He was outpitched by Myers, who stymied the D-backs through seven innings, allowing one run on four hits before wilting in the eighth after Bloomquist drew a nine-pitch walk with one out.

Ryan Roberts followed with a double, and Miguel Montero scored Roberts on a bloop single to center two batters later as the D-backs cut the lead to 5-3 and Myers was pulled.

He pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowed three runs on six hits, struck out four and walked three.

"I felt really good today," Myers said. "I felt like I didn't give up many hard-hit balls; a couple of bloopers cost me a couple of runs. Over the course of the game, I started feeling a lot better. They're a good-hitting ballclub and you try to keep them on the ropes as much as you can and mix your pitches. They can hurt you -- showed tonight."

In the ninth, Melancon struck out Johnson, allowed an infield hit to Xavier Nady -- a hot shot corralled by Jimmy Paredes at third but thrown away -- and struck out Gerardo Parra before allowing Goldschmidt's blast.

"It was unbelievable," Young said of Goldschmidt's at-bat. "Without that, we're sitting in the locker room and everybody's frustrated."

And what could have been a frustrating series for the D-backs -- a first-place team splitting with a last-place team -- turned out for the better in the end, courtesy of home runs off the bats of two players from the Houston area.

"That's baseball," Gibson said. "Give these guys some credit for their resiliency. We didn't play very well early on and it's frustrating. It could have been a bad series but it wasn't."

D-backs downplay being in first place

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/11/11

PHOENIX -- For the first time since June 24, the D-backs are in first place.

But manager Kirk Gibson doesn't care.

"Obviously you want to be there," Gibson said. "But you have to keep that in perspective. It doesn't really mean anything. We want to be there the last day of the season, that's where we want to be.

"I guess as a benchmark of where we want to be, I guess it's good to be there to know where you want to stay."

But Gibson and outfielder Chris Young both said that there wasn't a change in the team's demeanor Thursday.

"It doesn't feel any different than it did yesterday," Young said. "By no means just because you're in first place, the season isn't over yet, we still need to continue to work and we still have a lot more games to win if we want to be in the playoffs."

The D-backs have been a half-game up on the Giants in the National League West 10 times this season but have never led by more than that. They were looking to stand a game up with a victory over the Astros on Thursday, while the Giants are idle.

"We'll approach every game the same, win or lose, then we'll go to the next game," Gibson said. "We have such a long way to go.

"Is it significant? I'm not sure it is right now."

Marquis working hard to improve

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/11/11

PHOENIX -- Jason Marquis has gone through this before, stretches of baseball where he can't seem to find a way to get his opponents out.

"I just have to battle and compete and still find a way to get the job done," the D-backs starting pitcher said. "No matter what I feel in between the starts, that's what you're going to get from me on the mound."

And the veteran right-hander is working between starts to get better results during his starts, which haven't been good thus far.

"I have to be down in the zone better," he said. "When I've been ahead, I just haven't finished guys like I've needed to and when I've been behind, I've given up too many hitter's pitches up in the zone and over the plate."

In two starts -- both losses - Marquis has a 12.38 ERA and has given up 15 runs in eight innings. He lasted only four innings in each of his first two starts on the team, against the Giants and Astros.

"The most important thing about [Tuesday] was that we won the ballgame," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said he told Marquis. "He made a lot of mistakes and I don't want to say 'Who cares?' but we just try to overcome it and try to win the game.

"He's a veteran guy, he doesn't have to impress anybody and we want to encourage him to not feel any pressure."

Marquis mentioned that mentally, he doesn't feel any pressure and mechanically, he's not staying over the rubber like he wants to.

"You want to stand out to your teammates and be able to win games," he said. "Obviously my first two outings didn't show that, but I try not to put too much pressure on myself."

Young trying to bust out of slump

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/11/11

PHOENIX -- Chris Young can't predict the future.

"I don't go into a game saying, 'I'm going to get four hits' or 'I'm not going to get any hits,'" the D-backs center fielder said. "I just go out there every day with the same plan of having good at-bats and trying to become more consistent."

Young is battling a post-All-Star break slump, hitting .173 in 24 games without a home run and with only four runs driven in.

He doesn't have a multihit game since June 26 against the Tigers and hasn't hit a home run since July 2 against the A's but has hit in four consecutive games, leading D-backs manager Kirk Gibson to talk of an offensive breakout.

"I feel like he's close," Gibson said. "He's had some trouble but he keeps grinding and he just hasn't got the results."

Young doubled off the left-field wall, driving in a run in Wednesday night's win over the Astros.

"I don't really look at it as 'I'm about to go on a tear' or 'I'm about to go in a slump,'" he said. "I just look at it as today's a new day. No matter if I had a bad day yesterday or a great game, it has nothing to do with today's game and just try and prepare for today's game."

He said that in working through a slump, he takes as many cuts as possible and doesn't like to hold back.

"I probably go a little more," he said. "I definitely don't take a step back. Sometimes you need to, but I'm one of the guys that likes to do a little more to try and get all the work I can in so I can make the adjustments I need to as fast as possible."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cowgill learning to adjust at big league level

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/10/11

PHOENIX -- Collin Cowgill is happy to be here.

"It's been great so far," the D-backs outfielder said. "A lot of fun, we're a great team, I have great teammates, so I can't ask for much more right now."

Three weeks into his stay at the big league level, Cowgill is hitting .231 (6-for-26) in nine games and said that the mental adjustment from the Minor Leagues was much bigger than the physical adjustment.

"There's a little better pitching," he said. "But it's just the fact that you have to realize it's the same game but in bigger stadiums.

"That part of it, getting adjusted to it more mentally than physically has been the biggest obstacle so far."

He recorded his first Major League hit in a pinch-hit appearance on July 30 against the Dodgers, when he singled to center field off reliever Scott Elbert at Dodger Stadium.

Since then, he's recorded a hit in each of his four starting appearances in left field.

"Once you realize you can play at this level," he said, "You just got to believe in it, and that's a big thing, especially when you first get up here."

Montero returns to cleanup spot for D-backs

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/10/11

PHOENIX -- For the second consecutive day, D-backs catcher Miguel Montero was hitting in the cleanup spot on Wednesday.

During Tuesday night's offensive explosion against the Astros, Montero, hitting between Justin Upton and Chris Young, recorded three hits and drove in three runs.

"Right now, Miggy hasn't been swinging the bat well," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "But if he swings the bat the way he did last night, then I like him anywhere. He did a good job there."

Tuesday night marked the seventh time this season he's been in the cleanup spot, where he was hitting .346. For his career, Montero has hit .270 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 51 starts as a cleanup hitter.

Two of the left-handed hitter's three hits on Tuesday went the opposite way to left field.

"He knows it," Gibson said of the approach. "It's how you change it."

And while playing catcher on a day-to-day basis, sometimes the fatigue takes a toll on the batting average.

"It's a challenge because you get a little tired," Montero said.

He said that to combat that fatigue, from time-to-time he cuts back on his pre or postgame workouts.

"You're always going to slow down your workout a little bit," he said. "Shut it back a little bit but not as much, you just try to stay on top."

Montero entered Wednesday hitting .274 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs.

Gibson doing best to keep D-backs fresh

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/10/11

PHOENIX -- The dog days of summer are upon the D-backs, and manager Kirk Gibson is doing his best to make sure his team doesn't fall victim to them.

"We had discussions today and that was one of the topics," he said. "How hard do you push? I think physically we're going to try to trim back our batting practice, extra work and stuff like that."

The team opened a 10-game homestand sluggishly with three losses in four days before outslugging the Astros on Tuesday night. After a weekend series against the Mets, the D-backs head east for 10 games against the Phillies, Braves and Nationals.

"We know we're going to be on this road trip," Gibson said. "We're at home, and maybe we can say, 'Hey, guys, spend some more time at home and relax.'

"When we go on the road, we know it's going to be hot and we know it's going to be a terrible environment in the places we're going to go."

Second baseman Kelly Johnson thinks that keeping his body fresh is the easy part, while staying sharp mentally is another story.

"I think the tougher challenge is mentally, but when you're winning games, as a team, it makes it much easier," Johnson said.

"Last year it was a little bit different mentally than this year, but that's a bigger challenge for us in the dog days than anything."

And Gibson agrees.

"We can do that physically, but the mental part is, 'How hard do you push them mentally and how much can they take?'" Gibson said. "Do you blow stuff out of proportion? In the past, we've had some tougher times and streaks we haven't played well, but we've always bounced back.

"So my guess is we will bounce back."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ground ball is Marquis' best friend

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/09/11

PHOENIX -- The way Jason Marquis looks at it, if he's doing his job Tuesday night then the hitter-friendly reputation of Chase Field won't matter.

"The ultimate key for me is keeping the ball on the ground," he said. "Obviously anything in the air is not a good sign, but if I'm doing what I'm supposed to do then that doesn't come into play."

Marquis did what he was supposed to do in his first start, a shellacking at the hands of the Giants last Wednesday, in which the veteran gave up eight runs -- seven earned -- on 10 hits.

In that outing, ground ball after ground ball found hole after hole, which resulted in Marquis getting charged with the loss in his Arizona debut.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson talked about the need for better defensive positioning when Marquis is on the hill.

"It's really just having an understanding of what he's trying to do to them, and then he gives us an idea of what he expects them to do if he gets his pitch where he wants it," Gibson said. "We'll change things a little bit and be more communicative."

Gibson also said that Marquis has the ability to dictate moves on the field.

"I told him, if he wants to make a move [he can], and there's a lot of veteran guys like that, they'll move guys if they know what they're going to do with a guy," Gibson said.

Marquis entered Tuesday with an 0-4 record and 4.21 ERA in nine career starts at Chase Field.

Collmenter trying to rediscover mojo

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/09/11

PHOENIX -- Josh Collmenter is getting back to basics.

"Working the ball down in the zone," Collmenter said of what he's been focusing on. "When I work down in the zone, everything plays off that. If I can keep my fastball location, then it makes the changeup and curveball that much better."

Collmenter has stumbled upon tough times, losing two consecutive starts -- both to the Dodgers -- and getting chased in the third inning of Friday night's 7-4 loss.

After starting the season 3-1 in his first four starts, the rookie right-hander has gone 3-6 since.

"He needs to execute his pitches better," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He needs to command his fastball better, and the last couple times out he just hasn't had his fastball command."

The 25-year-old is 6-7 on the season with a 3.58 ERA.

"For me, it's just making sure I don't get too far away from what I'm comfortable with and what I do well," Collmenter said. "Sometimes I shy away from that a little bit and try to be too perfect."

And while Gibson said Collmenter is still in the D-backs rotation -- "He's our fifth starter and he hasn't lost his job," the manager said Sunday -- Collmenter said he doesn't worry about things he can't control.

"I know they're going to put the best team out there to win," he said. "And I just want to make sure that I prepare myself every time to be one of those guys."

Injured Blum resumes baseball activities

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/09/11

PHOENIX -- On Monday, D-backs infielder Geoff Blum was on the diamond at Chase Field.

Blum, progressing back to the active roster after suffering a broken finger on July 24 against the Rockies, speculates it will take him two more weeks to get back healthy.

"It felt good," he said. "I can't speed up Mother Nature, but I'm doing the best I can."

Blum fractured his right pinky finger fielding a ground ball and was forced to the disabled list for the second time this season.

In addition to continuing a lower-body workout Monday, the veteran took ground balls and fungoes from D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams.

"I've been doing a lot of conditioning and stuff like that to stay in shape and do the things that I can," Blum said. "Obviously, I can't swing a bat, but hopefully here in about a week and a half to two weeks, I'll be able to do that."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Blum is scheduled to have another X-ray in around a week's time.

"We'll get a better idea on when he can start to move it then," Gibson said.

Blum is hitting .200 (3-for-15) in seven games this season.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hudson hit hard as D-backs drop opener

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/08/11

PHOENIX -- "Make one pitch," D-backs starter Daniel Hudson thought to himself, "and get out of this inning."

"Please," he urged his right arm.

But in the first inning of Monday night's game against the Astros at Chase Field, that one pitch wasn't to be found.

For the second time in as many starts, the Astros roughed up Hudson early, to the tune of five runs on six hits in the first inning and seven runs on 11 hits overall, as they cruised to a 9-1 victory in the opener of a four-game set against the D-backs.

"I just tried to tell myself to calm down and get the next guy," Hudson said. "I just couldn't make a pitch and get out of any situation I was in."

And those first-inning situations more often than not began with Hudson delivering a pitch and ended with Houston pounding it all around the diamond.

After retiring leadoff hitter J.B. Shuck, Hudson allowed a double down the left-field line to Jose Altuve before Jason Bourgeois reached on an error by Cody Ransom at short.

J.D. Martinez then gave the Astros a 3-0 lead with an opposite-field home run to right. And while Hudson tried to right the ship by getting Matt Downs to ground out, things remained shaky.

A single off the glove of a diving Paul Goldschmidt at first followed by another single and a double off the glove of an outstretched Justin Upton in right scored two more runs. And suddenly, the D-backs were in a 5-0 hole.

"They came out, swung at everything and hit everything," Hudson said. "When they didn't hit it hard, they found a hole."

And the Astros weren't finished.

In the second they tallied two more runs on four hits, when Matt Downs doubled home a run with one out and Clint Barmes singled home another with two outs.

Houston had its biggest offensive night since July 19 in only a third of the game.

"I gotta give Houston credit, they swung the bats well," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "You can say Daniel missed some of his pitches and his locations, which you do every game, but they just pounded him."

The inning included a physical error by Ransom -- who booted a ground ball with one out -- and a mental error by Hudson, who failed to cover first base when Jimmy Paredes blasted a line drive in and out of the glove of Goldschmidt with two outs.

"That was big," Gibson said of the two-out blunder. "He was just unable to overcome it all."

The last time that Hudson faced the Astros, on May 27 in Houston, he allowed six runs in his first four innings before settling down to pitch six innings.

"It looked like the last time he pitched against them," Gibson said.

Hudson, who struck out one and didn't walk any in dropping to 11-8 on the season, doesn't know what to make of his struggles against the Astros.

"I don't really know," he said. "I don't know how to explain it. I've never really pitched well against them, it's just one of those things where a team has my number."

Meanwhile, Wandy Rodriguez had the number of the entire D-backs offense and allowed just two hits over six innings, both of which came in the first inning.

In that first inning, Kelly Johnson and Chris Young singled and Goldschmidt walked to load the bases with two outs. But Collin Cowgill grounded out to third to end the threat.

In the second inning Rodriguez walked a pair, putting runners on the corners with two outs before Johnson struck out swinging.

From there it was cruise control for the left-hander, who struck out five and walked four on the day.

"He was struggling to find that rhythm, and he did in the fourth inning," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "When you have a lead like that, you'd like him to attack. That was part of the rhythm. He wanted to and in a perfect world he would be able to attack. But that was the frustrating thing for him, that he was having trouble doing that."

The Astros tacked on two runs in the sixth on a Paredes single off Zach Duke, who pitched a career-high four innings in relief of Hudson. And Henry Blanco helped the D-backs avoid their third shutout of the season an inning later by drilling a solo home run to left field.

"It feels good to get one, but unfortunately for me it doesn't count," Blanco said. "You just go out there and try to win games."

For the fourth consecutive day, there was no movement in the National League West standings as the D-backs remain a half-game behind the Giants, who lost Monday night.

The D-backs have lost four of five against sub-.500 teams after taking two of three from the Giants last week.

"It wasn't in the cards tonight," Gibson said of a comeback. "We'll just move on to the next day."

102-year-old fan visits D-backs' clubhouse

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/08/11

PHOENIX -- The D-backs welcomed a surprise guest after Sunday night's victory over the Dodgers.

Si Goldstein, celebrating his 102nd birthday at Chase Field, was summoned by the D-backs' bullpen and escorted throughout the clubhouse in a wheelchair by closer J.J. Putz.

"I don't know the next time I'll get to meet a guy that's seen as much as he has," Putz said. "I think it was just as fun for us to have him down there as it was for him being here."

Putz said that the idea to bring Goldstein down was hatched by Micah Owings, who said that if the team came back, it would be cool to have him meet the players.

"We were kind of just shocked that there was a guy here that was 102 years old," Putz said.

And accompanied by his family inside the clubhouse, Goldstein met a number of players, including infielder Sean Burroughs.

"It was cool," Burroughs said. "He knew us all and it was great to meet someone that's lived for so long."

Burroughs couldn't fathom living that long, but added, "Wouldn't we all like to?"

Gibson makes effort to appease fans

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/08/11

PHOENIX -- Before every game, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson makes a point to sign autographs for the fans.

"Even in the away stadiums, like San Francisco," Gibson said. "Even though they bury me all game."

But he said that he doesn't answer fan mail or return signed cards because he doesn't know who's on the other end.

"I'd prefer they come to me and meet me in the stadium, honestly," Gibson said. "If somebody wants to send me something, this is a long subject, but I'd rather sign an autograph personally for them in the stadium."

To prove his theory, a couple years ago Gibson signed his name a certain way just to see how quickly it went online.

"It didn't take long," he said.

Gibson says nowadays, he doesn't sign at hotels or outside the stadium, only inside.

"That's why every day I go over there," Gibson said. "They all stand on the side of the dugout and I try to accommodate them."

Bloomquist sits for second consecutive day

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/08/11

PHOENIX -- For the second straight day, Willie Bloomquist was given the day off.

But the veteran D-backs infielder doesn't look at it that way.

"I don't really view it as a day off, to be honest," he said. "I look at it as an opportunity to win the game later in the game, versus being off.

"Coming to the field with the mindset that you have the day off, then obviously you're not ready to play."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said that he's making a concerted effort to keep the 33-year-old shortstop fresh for the remainder of the season.

"He would never admit it, he'll say he's fine, but I can just see," Gibson said, "When he plays shortstop every day, at some point, he just kind of loses his energy and legs."

Since Stephen Drew was lost for the season on July 20 with a broken right ankle, Bloomquist has started 14 of 16 games at shortstop. He has recorded a hit in all but two of those starts.

"I don't really look at it like I've been playing everyday," he admits. "It's just, if I'm playing today, then I'll do the best I can. And if not, I'll try to figure out a way to help us late in the game if need be."

Gibson said that Bloomquist will be back in the lineup on Wednesday.

"I'm just keeping him fresher, letting him play his game better," Gibson said. "It's not that he doesn't try, it's just that he wears down. So we'll do it that way today."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ransom, Johnson power Kennedy's 14th win

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/07/11

PHOENIX -- Cody Ransom didn't look, Clayton Kershaw didn't have to and suddenly, Kirk Gibson didn't feel so bad anymore.

"Of course," the D-backs manager, who left Saturday's game due to an illness, said about feeling better. "It was a good game."

Trailing by a run in the seventh inning Sunday afternoon, Ransom, the D-backs' journeyman shortstop, hit a game-winning two-run homer off Kershaw, the Dodgers' left-handed ace, for a 4-3 victory at Chase Field, as the D-backs avoided a sweep and remained a half-game behind the Giants in the National League West.

"It worked out for me," Ransom said. "I wasn't sure if I was ever going to get a hit at this park, so it's nice to finally get one here and it happened to help us win a game. We lost a few games in a row, so it was big for us today."

After Kershaw kept the Arizona offense at bay for much of the game, Collin Cowgill hit a one-out single up the middle in the seventh, then Ransom connected with a 1-1 fastball and sent it over the left-field fence, bringing the 25,575 in attendance to their feet and Kershaw to a crouch on the mound.

"I got a lot of hittable pitches today, but I missed them," Ransom said. "He got that one out a little more out over the plate than the rest of them, and it didn't cut as much."

The hometown home run was the first of the Mesa native's stint with the D-backs.

"Hometown guy or not, any hit like that is a lot of fun," Ransom said. "But being at home, I'm sure I'll get some phone calls after the game."

Two innings later, he ended the game with his third backhanded play in the hole at shortstop of the day to retire Juan Rivera and pick up Ian Kennedy's 14th victory -- tied for first in the NL -- and J.J. Putz' 26th save of the season.

Ransom's all-around performance while filling in for Willie Bloomquist helped halt a three-game losing streak.

"We've talked about playing everybody on the team," Gibson said. "You can't expect them to do something like that if you throw them in there occasionally, but you still want to make sure they still feel a part and have their confidence.

"He played good at shortstop today and, obviously, the big blow there was the two-run homer, but that's kind of who we are."

Ransom's home run came an inning after Kennedy had relinquished a two-run lead in the sixth on run-scoring hits by Andre Ethier -- a game-tying double to score Aaron Miles -- and Rivera -- a single to score Ethier.

After retiring Jamey Carroll to open the sixth, the D-backs right-hander battled Miles for eight pitches, but ended up allowing a single.

"He's a battler up there," Kennedy said. "Him and Carroll. They take a lot of pitches and foul balls off with two strikes. They're just hard to strike out."

Kennedy allowed three runs on six hits over seven innings, while striking out three and walking one.

The only other blemish on his line was a solo home run by James Loney in the fifth inning.

"I just tried to throw a quality game," Kennedy said. "I made some pitches where I left some balls up and they got some hits off me, and I just tried to let my team pick me up today, and they really did."

Kennedy pitched at least six innings while allowing three runs or less for the sixth consecutive outing.

The D-backs took an early lead against Kershaw, who hadn't allowed an earned run to them this season entering the game, when Ryan Roberts walked on four pitches to lead off the first and Kelly Johnson followed with his 18th home run of the year.

It was the third home run Kershaw has allowed to a left-handed batter this season.

"It took me too long to adjust," Kershaw said. "You give up a four-pitch walk, you're going to give up runs. It's frustrating, but I did that in the last game, walked a guy on four pitches and gave up a run. Overall, I pitched alright. But the first inning kills you."

But he settled down from there and retired 16 of the next 18 batters before Cowgill's one-out single in the seventh.

He was pulled after giving up a pinch-hit double to Sean Burroughs and ended up allowing four runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings, with seven strikeouts and three walks.

"The team battled back," said Kershaw. "They gave me a lead and I gave it back. No one to blame but me."

After David Hernandez worked a scoreless eighth inning, Putz delivered his first perfect save since coming off the disabled list on July 26.

"What it comes down to is we needed to take care of business," Kennedy said. "We try to avoid getting swept at our own place, and it's frustrating that we lost a series at our own place, but we have to take care of business."

Gibson irked by D-backs' baserunning mistakes

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/07/11

PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson wasn't happy before Sunday's game against the Dodgers.

He wasn't happy with his health, he wasn't happy with himself and he certainly wasn't happy with the way his team has been running the bases as of late.

"We've just got to play a better game," he said. "We've made several baserunning mistakes this series, and while I want them to remain aggressive, we have to do a better job understanding ...

"Like when [Ryan Roberts] went last night, that was not a smart play," he said about Roberts advancing to third on a close play after a wild pitch while down a pair of runs with an out in the ninth inning on Saturday. "You've got to stop doing that [stuff].

"We've got some work to do and we have to talk about some things," he continued. "The guys have to be smarter."

He also talked about running into a double play to end a seventh-inning rally on Friday night.

"[Sean] Burroughs got doubled off the other day and people can say, 'Oh, that was a tough one,'" Gibson said. "It's not tough. You're down by three runs or two runs, whatever it is, you don't get doubled off, end of story."

But the manager was not immune to criticizing himself.

"That's on me," he said about the number of ground balls that have been finding holes in the D-backs infield. "Those are types of things that I look at to get better at."

Goldschmidt adjusting to life in the Majors

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/07/11

PHOENIX -- A week into his Major League career, Paul Goldschmidt has been more a sponge than a first baseman.

"I'm just trying to pick up on anything I can," the 23-year-old said. "There's just a bunch of little things, whether it's hitting or defense or baserunning, that I'm trying to learn from all the guys."

After being called up last Monday, Goldschmidt recorded his first career hit off Matt Cain that night, and on Tuesday, he hit his first career home run off Tim Lincecum during a crucial series win over the Giants.

"That's probably the best part," he said of the race to win the National League West. "Being up here and so close to winning the division, it's going to be a battle for the rest of the year, so that's fun."

In 18 at-bats entering Sunday, Goldschmidt is hitting .222 with four hits, a pair of walks and eight strikeouts.

"You're not going to see that many mistakes up here, and they're just so much more consistent," he said. "You might get your one pitch to hit, foul it off, and then it's a battle from there."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said that the biggest adjustment to the big leagues comes off the field versus on.

"The first thing he's got to do is adjust to daily life in the big leagues," Gibson said. "Then you have to understand how they're going to pitch to you and you're going to have to make some adjustments at the plate and in the field.

"You can't teach a guy in a day."

Gibson back in dugout after illness Saturday

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/07/11

PHOENIX -- After leaving Saturday night's game early because of an illness, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson returned to the dugout on Sunday.

The 54-year-old said before Sunday's matinee against the Dodgers that the sickness was "something" with his stomach.

He left Saturday night's game early and bench coach Alan Trammell took the reins from there.

"I planned on it yesterday," he said about managing. "It kind of came on when I got here yesterday."

He said he watched some of the D-backs' 5-3 loss to the Dodgers from the clubhouse and the rest from his home.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "Let's move on."

Gibson has a career managerial record of 95-101 entering Sunday.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

D-backs, Saunders drop chance to grab first

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- Another night, another missed opportunity.

For the second consecutive night on Saturday, the D-backs failed to take hold of first place in the National League West as the Giants continued to lose and the Dodgers continued to play spoiler with a 5-3 victory in front of 33,239 at Chase Field.

"It's unfortunate for us that we've lost three in a row," bench coach Alan Trammell said. "We've had an opportunity."

Off the field, Trammell held the reins for the majority of the game after manager Kirk Gibson exited with an illness early on.

"Right before the game, he told me he was having trouble," Trammell said. "He was there into the first inning, maybe the second and then he said, 'I gotta go.'"

But on the field, the D-backs were run over by the Dodgers' offense, couldn't score runs against a recent callup and, for the second time in as many days, climbed back but couldn't come back.

"We had a couple of opportunities tonight, but we're not clicking right now," Trammell said.

Nathan Eovaldi, 21, making his Major League debut for the Dodgers, withstood some early adversity and matched left-hander Joe Saunders through five innings.

In the second, Eovaldi loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a single before Saunders slapped a two-out ground ball through the right side of the infield to score a pair of runs and give the D-backs a 2-1 lead.

"I needed some Band-Aids," Saunders said. "I made some good pitches and they hit some balls that weren't hit very hard, but you tip your cap to them, and they put the ball in some absolutely perfect spots."

But the Dodgers tied the score an inning later after Eovaldi led off the third with a single and scored three batters later on an Andre Ethier groundout to second.

Eovaldi finished with five innings pitched, allowed two runs on four hits, walked a pair and struck out seven.

"He attacked for the most part, he threw the ball over the plate and his stuff was really good," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He handled himself well."

Los Angeles took control in the sixth.

After allowing a leadoff single to Ethier, Saunders retired Matt Kemp before shortstop Willie Bloomquist couldn't hang on to a possible inning-ending double-play ball off the bat of Juan Rivera.

Aaron Miles followed with a bloop single to center for a lead the Dodgers wouldn't surrender, and Saunders' day was over.

"Unfortunately, there was a little infield hit and a bloop," Trammell said. "It's not his fault. He was up in the high 90s, [Rod Barajas] was 2-for-2 off of him and that was just my decision to possibly change pitchers and get a ground ball."

Saunders finished with 5 1/3 innings pitched, allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking one to fall under the .500 mark at 8-9.

"I can't really explain it, honestly," Saunders said. "You make your pitch, you do your job and then they still get a hit. You just have to try to turn the page and go after the next guy. You can't really focus on the last hitter."

Trammell, who relieved Saunders with right-hander Brad Ziegler looking for a double-play ground ball, instead saw Barajas deliver his third hit of the game to center field.

"With Barajas already being 2-for-2 off of [Saunders], I was thinking that Ziegler might get a ground ball with runners on first and third," Trammell said. "Didn't happen."

Ziegler retired the next batter before walking pinch-hitter Trent Oeltjen to load the bases and striking out Jamey Carroll to escape further damage.

Carroll entered the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the third inning after shortstop Dee Gordon injured his shoulder tagging Kelly Johnson in a rundown. He is listed as day to day.

The Dodgers tacked on a run in the seventh before the D-backs, true to form, tried to muster a comeback.

In the eighth, Justin Upton drove home Bloomquist with a two-out double to the right-center-field gap to cut the deficit to 5-3.

One batter later, Chris Young just missed a game-tying two-run home run to left as the ball died at the warning track. In the ninth, Ryan Roberts doubled to put the potential tying run at the plate, but he was stranded on two groundouts.

"We fall behind, we come back, we fall behind, we come back," Trammell said. "It's tough to come back all the time."

The pair of series-opening losses sets up a tough task for the D-backs to salvage a game against the third-place Dodgers with one of the league's best pitchers, left-hander Clayton Kershaw (13-4, 2.68 ERA), starting on Sunday.

Arizona counters in the matinee with right-hander Ian Kennedy (13-3, 3.17), who is 2-1 against the Dodgers in his career.

"We're in early August and, yes, people are looking," Trammell said. "You're looking, we're looking, everybody in baseball's looking, but we really have to take care of the business at hand."

Gibson leaves D-backs game with illness

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- D-backs manager Kirk Gibson left Saturday night's game against the Dodgers early with an undisclosed illness.

"I thought he was fine during batting practice," bench coach and acting manager Alan Trammell said. "I didn't know anything was wrong, but right before the game he told me he was having trouble."

"He said, 'Be ready,' so I took the lineup card out and I told them that there's a possibility that I might be coming in and just to be prepared," Trammell said.

He said that he thought Gibson left in the second inning of the D-backs' 5-3 loss.

"Gibby was there into the first inning, maybe the second and then he said, 'I gotta go,'" Trammell said.

Duke learning to adjust to role in bullpen

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- It's a new thing to Zach Duke, the whole pennant race thing.

"It's a lot of fun," Duke said. "Every game means something and that's a different experience for me, so I just have to make sure to prepare myself to give this team everything that I have every day."

After starting the season in the rotation, Duke is now working out of the bullpen and doing a fine job so far.

"It's been pretty good," he said. "I haven't had to pitch on short rest yet, so that test has yet to be taken for me, but it's so far, so good."

In four relief outings, the left-hander has allowed three runs on seven hits in 10 innings. He has a 2-4 record and 5.02 ERA overall on the season.

"There's less time to prepare and you just have to get loose and get out there," he said of the differences between starting and relieving. "You have to trust you'll throw the ball where you want to, and there's a little more adrenaline to it."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Duke has performed well throughout the transition.

"He's throwing good," Gibson said. "It's probably a big adjustment for him to be in that role, but he's thrown the ball better, and he's a veteran guy.

"It's hard to predict what the influence on our team anyone might have at this important part of the season, so I think you just have to have a good attitude, adjust your role on any given day and be prepared to do it when it counts."

Duke said that starter or reliever, his pregame preparation is still the same.

"Now, my job is to get the next couple of guys out, but you still prepare yourself to give everything you've got from the first pitch," he said.

Ziegler enjoying jump to contending D-backs

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- Brad Ziegler can tell he's fitting in with the D-backs.

"They're not afraid to poke fun at me," the right-handed reliever said. "The longer that I've been here, the more that they're throwing me into that mix."

Ziegler is still getting acclimated to the Phoenix area, the D-backs and, among other things, pitching in a pennant race.

After spending the first 3 1/2 seasons of his Major League career with the A's and only once getting within a handful of games of a playoff spot late in the season, the change is a welcome one.

"To go into the second week of August half a game back, it's a great feeling," Ziegler said. "That's what everybody plays for. You want to win the World Series, and to get there, you have to make the playoffs.

"To be this close and have a shot right now, that's right where we want to be."

Ziegler was acquired in a trade from the A's for Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto on July 31 and has a 2.29 ERA on the season.

He's made two appearances with the D-backs and has not allowed an earned run.

"It's been great," Ziegler said. "It's a real relaxed clubhouse, everybody likes to have fun and joke around with each other a lot, so it's been an easy adjustment for sure."

Burroughs ends skid, shrugs off tough stretch

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- Sean Burroughs didn't have a clue.

"What streak?" he asked, after Friday night's 7-4 loss to the Dodgers, in which the D-backs infielder snapped an 0-for-20 slump.

"I've been hitting the ball pretty good, but that's just kind of how it goes."

Burroughs snapped the career-long skid with a seventh-inning single off Chad Billingsley. His previous career-long slump was 18 at-bats in 2003.

"I don't really look too much into things like that," he said. "I just try to go up there, make contact and see what happens."

In a bench role, Burroughs has hit .224 with four RBIs in 58 at-bats this season.

In between his plate appearances off the bench, he likes to jump into pitchers' bullpen sessions to keep his eye fresh.

"I've taken millions of swings every day, but I like to see the ball coming out of a pitcher's hand," he said. "It's hard to emulate."

Burroughs also recently relinquished his jersey number to incoming starter Jason Marquis. The former No. 21 is now wearing No. 11.

"He's had that number his whole career," Burroughs said. "It's fine with me."