Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kennedy, D-backs bullpen blank Brewers

By Anthony Fenech / | 7/22/2011

PHOENIX -- One day after Stephen Drew ran through a red light in the fourth inning and hurt his ankle, Justin Upton was given a green light in the fourth inning and hurt Milwaukee's Zack Greinke.

Upton pounced on a 3-0 offering from Greinke and pounded it into the upper deck for a solo home run, giving starting pitcher Ian Kennedy all the offense he'd need in a 4-0 win at Chase Field.

"I hit that one pretty good," Upton said. "[Greinke has] a good fastball, and he's not the type of guy that's going to pitch around anybody."

Greinke didn't pitch around Upton, and he watched as the right fielder's 16th home run of the season traveled to left-center for the first of three D-backs round-trippers on the day.

"You kind of play with fire once you get to [ball three]," Greinke said. "You throw a strike, see what happens and hope for the best. He hit it."

With the win, the D-backs secured a split of the four-game series against the National League Central-leading Brewers.

"We're happy to see them go," manager Kirk Gibson said. "Fortunately, we got them -- not by a ton, but they were very tough games for us to play."

Miguel Montero followed Upton's lead two batters later, hitting his 11th home run of the season, to left field. Kelly Johnson put an exclamation point on the win in the eighth inning with a two-run opposite-field homer, his 17th.

"When you win a game and you hit some home runs, it tends to make you feel better," Gibson said.

The multi-homer inning was the D-backs' eighth of the season, and they trail only the Brewers in the NL in this department.

While the D-backs were showing off their power stroke, Kennedy was keeping the Brewers' power hitters off balance en route to picking up his 11th victory.

The right-hander pitched seven innings, allowing no runs on four hits, striking out five and walking two.

"I felt like I was throwing pretty good," Kennedy said. "We needed to even this series out, and I knew Greinke was going to give us a tough game. A couple of guys hit home runs, and tonight that's what we needed."

Kennedy held the Brewers hitless in six chances with runners in scoring position and wasn't threatened for much of the night outside the fifth inning before Bryan Shaw took over in the eighth inning.

In that fifth inning, Yuniesky Betancourt and Jonathan Lucroy hit back-to-back singles with one out, then Greinke sacrificed them into scoring position for right fielder Corey Hart.

With a base open and his team ahead by two runs, Kennedy walked Hart and retired Nyjer Morgan on a flyout to center to end the inning.

"I wasn't going to give Hart anything to hit," Kennedy said. "We saw what he can do this series. If he puts the barrel on the ball, he hits it pretty far, and he could have put them ahead by one swing."

Kennedy threw seven innings for the 12th time this year, which ties him for fourth in the NL, and held his opponent to one run or fewers for the 10th time, which ties for fourth in the Majors.

"He's unbelievable," Upton said. "He goes out there, he pounds the zone and keeps us on our toes, and we love playing behind him."

After coming on in relief of Kennedy, Shaw allowed a leadoff single to Hart and plunked Morgan before navigating his way out of that jam with the help of a pitcher's best friend, a shortstop-to-second double play on a ball hit by Ryan Braun.

"I just stuck with my best pitch," Shaw said of that first-pitch disposal of Braun. "I went with my cutter away and got him to chase a little bit and roll over."

With two outs, Gibson summoned left-hander Joe Paterson to face the left-handed-hitting Prince Fielder, who was sent back to the dugout after flailing at three breaking balls.

Fielder, roundly booed the entire series for not choosing Upton to participate in this year's Home Run Derby, went 1-for-16 in the series.

"We're very lucky," Gibson. "We pitched [Fielder] good, but these guys are a good team. They're very, very tough to play against and very explosive."

David Hernandez pitched a scoreless ninth inning, and after he struck out Betancourt swinging, the D-backs gained a half-game on the Giants in the NL West and now stand four games out.

"The victory helps us move on from yesterday," Gibson said. "It was a tough loss, and the guys bounced back and played well tonight."

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