Sunday, July 24, 2011

Upton leads offense as D-backs blank Rox

By Anthony Fenech / | 7/24/2011

PHOENIX -- Sunday afternoon, the D-backs took what Ubaldo Jimenez gave them.

And then they took some more. And more. And then, with another impressive all-around performance, they took a three-game series from the Rockies with a 7-0 win in front of 28,090 at Chase Field.

"Things got hard, they got tough and we didn't look very good," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "But this is a big win. This series is a big win."

For the second straight night, Justin Upton powered the D-backs lineup, while the righty-lefty duo of Micah Owings and Zach Duke recorded the team's ninth shutout of the season in the finale of a 10-game homestand.

Gerardo Parra was a late scratch because of a sore left wrist, Kelly Johnson was out again with a sore left calf and Geoff Blum exited early with a broken right pinky, but the remaining D-backs cobbled together 11 hits while chasing Jimenez after five innings to leave Phoenix on a high note.

"I'm very proud of the guys today," Gibson said. "We threw a lineup out there and we didn't have a choice, these were the guys and they did a hell of a job."

Early on, it looked as if Jimenez would be the one chasing the D-backs out of town.

The Rockies right-hander struck out five of the first nine batters he faced before Willie Bloomquist, Xavier Nady and Upton strung together consecutive opposite-field hits with two outs in the third for an early lead.

Upton's double, which landed just inside the right-field line, scored both after back-to-back singles.

"Very frustrating," Jimenez said. "After getting the first two outs, you want to finish the inning right away. But they kept going the opposite way with me."

And the D-backs -- as has been customary of late against Jimenez -- didn't stop there, scoring a run in the fourth and two runs in the fifth before he was pulled.

"You just have to give the guys credit," Gibson said. "I told you guys a couple of days ago, I felt like we were ready to start swinging the bat. We've kind of gotten back into it."

In the fourth, Owings helped his own cause with a single up the middle, driving in Miguel Montero.

In the fifth, Nady led off the inning with a single before Upton smacked a broken-bat triple off the wall in right field.

Three batters later, Sean Burroughs scored Upton on a fielder's choice to second as Upton just beat a throw home with a nifty hook slide.

Burroughs took over for Blum in the third inning after Blum fractured his pinky fielding a ground ball in the second inning.

"Hopefully it will be a two-to three-week deal and we'll get back out there," Blum said.

The D-backs have now scored five or more runs in each of Jimenez' past three starts against them and have knocked him out of the game in the sixth inning or sooner each time.

He finished with five innings on Sunday, allowing five runs on eight hits while striking out eight and walking two.

Meanwhile, Owings held the Rockies scoreless in a spot start that Gibson said afterward wasn't so spotty after all.

After pitching in the bullpen for nearly two months, the right-hander threw five innings of two-hit baseball, striking out two and walking three.

"That's what we were hoping for," Gibson said. "He did a great job and, right now, he is our fifth guy. I think he'll probably get another start. Why wouldn't he?"

Owings continued his mastery of Colorado and now sports a 4-0 record with a 0.79 ERA (two earned runs in 22 2/3 innings) against them in his career.

"It felt great," Owings said. "Obviously, you never know how it's going to go, you just go out there and do the best you can."

Duke took over for Owings in the sixth and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing three hits to record his first career save.

"It's funny, because the other day during batting practice, when I found out I was starting, [Duke] said, 'You go five, and I'll go four,'" Owings said. "And that's what happened."

Ahead, 5-0, entering the sixth, the D-backs put the game away with two runs off reliever Matt Belisle on a single from Chris Young and a fielder's choice from Montero.

Upton singled in the eighth to complete a 4-for-4 day, raising his batting average to .301, and finished with nine hits for the series, the most in a series for his career.

"I don't know what's going on with me," Upton said. "I'm getting some bloop shots and squaring some balls up. The ball's just been falling for me."

Nady added two hits, scored three runs and was hit by a pitch.

The D-backs trail the Giants by four games in the National League West and embark on a nine-game road trip against division foes beginning Tuesday in San Diego.

"I know there's been some things written about where we're headed," Gibson said. "This team doesn't believe that."

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