Monday, July 18, 2011

Collmenter uncorks best start of young career

By Anthony Fenech / | 7/18/2011

PHOENIX -- Before Monday night's opener with the Brewers, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson was asked what he wanted from starting pitcher Josh Collmenter.

"I'd like to see a complete game," he said. "But we know that might not happen."

Collmenter tried his hardest to prove his manager's words true, pitching eight dominant innings in a 3-0 victory in the midst of a dust storm and in front of 17,404 at Chase Field.

"He threw an exceptional game," Gibson said. "No question."

Collmenter blanked the Brewers for the second straight game, registered the longest outing of his career and extended his scoreless streak to 14 innings -- all of those coming against Milwaukee.

"I think today was a culmination of everything that I can do as a pitcher," the right-handed rookie said. "I really had everything working and kept them off-balance."

On July 6 at Miller Park, Collmenter allowed three hits, struck out three and walked one in six innings.

On Monday, he allowed three hits, struck out seven and walked none over 105 pitches (74 strikes).

"I just wanted to make sure I went out there and didn't change a whole lot from last time," Collmenter said. "And see how they'd react and adjust to what I was doing, and I was able to kind of plug along and get some early outs and some quick innings when I needed them."

Collmenter was backed by a fine defensive play from Willie Bloomquist in the first inning and a two-run home run by Ryan Roberts in the sixth.

With Nyjer Morgan on second base with two outs in the first and Prince Fielder up, the Brewers first baseman -- who was booed consistently throughout the game -- lined sharply into the hole at shortstop.

Bloomquist laid out to make a back-handed stab in the outfield grass and with Morgan trying to score from second, threw from his knees to Henry Blanco, who was blocking the plate.

"He made a great play and a great throw from his knees," Gibson said, ensuring the play did not go unnoticed.

The D-backs opened the scoring in the third when Gerardo Parra grounded into a double play to score Blanco with the bases loaded.

Roberts' blast came with two outs in the sixth, immediately after Chris Young doubled, and traveled deep into the left-field seats for his second home run in as many games.

"I did everything I could do," said Brewers starter Randy Wolf. "I made a mistake, that happens. I did my job to the best of my ability.

Meanwhile, Collmenter was working through the Brewers' lineup with ease, at one point retiring 12 straight batters -- a career-high -- from the start of the second inning through the end of the fifth.

In fact, he retired 21 of 22 batters after the first inning, with the lone hit a Yuniesky Betancourt bunt single that led off the sixth.

"I kind of got locked in," Collmenter said. "It's good as a pitcher when you're in those zones, and it was definitely good to get back on track, with the last one before the break and now this one after the break, and give our rotation momentum."

Wolf bent but did not break, pitching seven serviceable innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits and striking out three.

He escaped unscathed from a pair of two-on, no-out jams and surrendered only a run on the double-play ball in the third after the D-backs loaded the bases with no outs.

"Honestly, we didn't make use of our opportunities," Gibson said. "You just have to deal with that and keep playing."

Gibson said he didn't seriously consider leaving Collmenter in for the ninth to earn his first career complete game.

"Just because of where he's at, his youth and how far we pushed him," Gibson said. "You just worry about doing the right thing sometimes with those guys. But after the eighth inning, we knew he was done."

And while he understood his manager's decision, Collmenter said he wanted to keep pitching.

"I didn't know how many pitches I was at," he said. "I thought I was right around 100, and anytime you get to that position, you want to be able to finish it."

Instead, David Hernandez picked up his ninth save of the season, sitting the Brewers down in order in the ninth.

The D-backs' third straight victory kept them 3 1/2 games behind the Giants, who blanked the Dodgers, in the National League West.

"We haven't been swinging the bats great since we've come back from the All-Star break," Gibson said. "But here we've won three out of four games, so that's the part we're after."

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