Saturday, May 21, 2011

Johnson's grand slam caps stunning rally

By Anthony Fenech / | 05/21/11

PHOENIX -- During Spring Training, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson brought in a group of Navy Seals to meet with the team.

Their message was the same message they live by: Deal with it.

And on Saturday night, after three comebacks, five errors and seven men left on base, the team did as it was told.

"We made some mistakes," Gibson said, "But we dealt with it."

And with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning, trailing by a run, second baseman Kelly Johnson dealt with a mid-90s fastball from Twins closer Matt Capps, sending the pitch into the right-field seats for a grand slam and a 9-6 D-backs victory.

"That is 100 percent what having a good game -- a good at-bat and playing baseball -- is all about," said Johnson, who received a curtain call from the 39,776 in attendance at Chase Field.

"That was cool," he said. "When you see stuff like that, it just gets you so excited to play and be a part of it."

The win was the D-backs' fifth in a row, and marks their longest winning streak since August 2009.

"The guys didn't quit," Gibson said. "It was just huge -- and Kelly's grand slam, everyone knows how he's been struggling, but he's been coming around even before that."

Johnson was 0-for-4, with a strikeout and three fly outs before the eighth-inning at-bat.

"I wasn't trying to do too much," he said. "With a guy on third, just trying to get something in the air deep enough to get a run in, and I squared it up."

Johnson's blast capped a six-run eighth inning that began with the D-backs trailing 6-3. Chris Young and Miguel Montero led off the inning with back-to-back singles, before Juan Miranda plated both on his second double of the game to pull within one.

After Gerardo Parra reached on his second infield single of the game -- popping a bunt over a leaping Danny Valencia at third base -- pinch-hitter Josh Wilson couldn't successfully convert a sacrifice, and Ryan Roberts followed with a single to load the bases.

And then, with the tying run 90 feet away, Capps fell behind Johnson.

"I put him in a good count," Capps said. "I made a pretty good pitch, and he put a pretty good swing on it."

The grand slam was the third of Johnson's career, and his fifth home run of the season. He has hit safely in 12 of his last 16 games.

In the ninth, D-backs closer J.J. Putz struck out two batters to earn his 11th save in as many chances, setting a team record for consecutive saves at the start of a season.

In his first Major League start since 2009, starting pitcher Micah Owings went 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits.

"I felt good," Owings. "It was awesome just being back, hearing the crowd and the welcome. I really appreciated it."

He struck out three, walked one and allowed a pair of solo home runs to Valencia and Jason Kubel.

"He did a good job for us tonight," Gibson said.

Trailing by three runs in the sixth, back-to-back doubles by Stephen Drew and Young knocked Minnesota right-hander Scott Baker out of the game. He allowed two hits through the first five innings and struck out seven.

Young's double scored Drew, and three batters later, he scored on a safety squeeze down the third-base line by Parra to cut the lead to 4-3.

But the Twins took advantage of three Arizona errors in the eighth -- including two throwing errors on Valencia's third hit of the game, which scored two runs -- and padded their lead.

"When you make mistakes and things don't go your way, you just try to get out of the inning and create pressure on the other side," Gibson said.

Aaron Heilman picked up the win in relief, his third victory of the year.

"We played well," Gibson said. "We made five errors, but we dealt with it."

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