Saturday, July 23, 2011

Upton, Montero beat Rockies into submission

By Anthony Fenech / | 7/23/2011

PHOENIX -- Earlier in the week, after the D-backs hit three home runs in a victory over the Brewers, manager Kirk Gibson said that he thought his team was ready to emerge from a post-All-Star break slump.

"I feel like we're coming out of it," he said on Thursday.

Two days later, the team had done just that.

The D-backs broke out of it early and often on Saturday evening, as they put up crooked number after crooked number on the Chase Field scoreboard in a 12-3 victory over the Rockies.

Their first six batters reached base, Justin Upton drove in six runs and Miguel Montero drove in five in the team's biggest offensive outburst in over a month.

"It was good," Gibson said. "We haven't done that in a while."

And while Friday night's postgame fireworks show had long since ended, the team put on an early fireworks display for the 34,849 in attendance on Saturday.

Willie Bloomquist singled to start the shellacking, and by the time the first inning ended, the D-backs had five runs on five hits against Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel. The team batted around in the first, providing Josh Collmenter with a comfortable cushion and the most run support he's enjoyed all year.

"Obviously, this was an ideal situation to jump on [Hammel] really quick," Gibson said. "It's easier to be a pitcher when you have a five-run lead in the first inning."

Upton and Montero both delivered two-run doubles in the opening frame, while Collmenter collected his first career RBI on a single up the middle to put the Rockies in a hole they wouldn't emerge from.

But the offense wasn't finished there.

The next inning, Montero -- who entered the game 1-for-11 lifetime against Hammel -- socked an 0-2 breaking ball into the right-field seats for a two-run home run, giving the D-backs a 7-1 lead.

"I was looking fastball the whole time," Montero admitted. "It was a lucky one."

And while the D-backs loaded up on baserunners -- to the tune of 14 hits, seven walks and a hit batter -- Collmenter cruised to a second consecutive victory in his third straight quality start.

The right-hander pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits, while striking out three and walking none, for his sixth victory of the season.

"It's big anytime you have a lead when you're a pitcher, especially early on," Collmenter said. "It gives you a little cushion out there, and lets you ease into it and get more comfortable on the mound -- knowing you don't have to be quite as perfect."

And at the plate, he recorded his first multi-hit game when he added a sixth-inning single.

"It was nice to get a couple of those," he said. "It's been a while. I was just trying to hit the ball up the middle, that's what your coach from Little League on up says. So I guess in the back of my mind, that's what I was thinking."

Hammel labored through 5 2/3 innings, allowing eight runs on 12 hits. He struck out seven and walked four.

"Warming up in the bullpen, I felt I had no-hit stuff," Hammel said. "So yes, very frustrating."

The Rockies touched Collmenter up for runs in the second inning -- on Troy Tulowitzki's 19th home run of the year, a solo shot to right field -- and in the third, when Ty Wigginton singled home two runs.

And while Collmenter threw at least seven innings without issuing a walk for the second time this season, the D-backs offense scored at least 12 runs for the fourth time this season.

"You can come in here and have some energy and have some fun," Gibson said. "And I think we did that before the game, and it carried into the game."

But the fun didn't stop until Upton had his turn to put an exclamation point on the proceedings with a seventh-inning grand slam to left field, his 17th home run of the season and second career grand slam.

The home run came on the first pitch by Colorado left-handed reliever Eric Stults, who hit Gerardo Parra on the wrist one batter earlier.

"He left it over the inner half of the plate, it was up and I barreled it up," Upton said.

The upper-deck blast tied Upton's career-high of six RBIs, and Upton and Montero became the first pair of D-backs teammates to each record five RBIs in a single game.

"That's nice," Montero said of the accomplishment. "What can I say? It's pretty good."

"I feel good at the plate," he said. "I'm trying to stay a little bit quieter at the plate, trying to get better pitches to hit -- and it shows in the results."

With the win, the D-backs kept pace with the Giants in the National League West, and will oppose Ubaldo Jimenez in the rubber game of the series on Sunday afternoon.

"I like it when they feel good about themselves," Gibson said about his team. "Hopefully, this will carry into [Sunday] and beyond that."

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