Thursday, August 11, 2011

Walk-off shot pads D-backs' West lead

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/11/11

PHOENIX -- Chris Young wasn't thinking when he stepped to the plate late in a tie game Thursday night.

He wasn't thinking about his mechanics, his three hitless at-bats earlier in the game, the 32 games since he's hit a home run or the recent slump that he's tried to will himself out of.

"I just wanted to hit the ball hard," he said.

And with two on, one out and Chase Field still buzzing from a game-tying home run an inning earlier, Young saw a pitch, hit it hard and sent it over the fence in left field for a walk-off home run in an 8-5 victory over the Astros. It was the D-backs' 30th comeback win of the season

"It felt amazing, I"m not going to lie," Young said. "The stars lined up for us tonight."

With the win, the D-backs took a four-game set from the Astros and, more importantly, a one-game lead over the Giants in the National League West.

"That makes you smile," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of the win. "That whole team, we played very well when it counted."

Young's fifth career walk-off home run came on a 1-0 count against Astros left-hander Sergio Escalona, who was summoned a batter earlier by Astros manager Brad Mills.

"They left the lefty in the game and I think that's my at-bat," Young said. "I think I had to try to find a way to take advantage of it before it gets to Kelly [Johnson] and I'm happy I was able to."

But before Young could take advantage of Escalona, rookie Paul Goldschmidt had to take advantage of Astros closer Mark Melancon in the ninth inning, with the D-backs down to their final out and trailing, 5-3.

Goldschmidt was called on to pinch-hit against the right-hander, took two balls and two strikes and fouled off two pitches before launching a fastball off the facade of the upper deck in left field to tie the game.

"I was just trying to go in there and battle," he said. "He left a fastball up and out over the plate and I was glad to hit it."

The home run drew a curtain call from the crowd and closer J.J. Putz from the bullpen, who sat down the Astros in order in the 10th inning.

"It's exciting, obviously," Goldschmidt said, "But we had to go out there and shut it down and J.J. did that, and then we got a couple guys on and [Young] was able to get that big hit."

The big hit was Young's 17th home run of the season and first since July 2 against the A's.

"It's been a few days, huh?" Young joked. "It hasn't been that long.

"I've gone through streaks where I hadn't hit a home run in a month and I've gone through streaks when I've hit seven in a week so it happens," he said. "Just because I don't have a home run in a while, I'm not going to go to the plate to try to hit a home run. You're trying to hit the ball hard and if it goes over the fence, it goes over the fence."

For the third time in the four-game set, the D-backs fell behind early, this time on a third-inning RBI single from Carlos Lee, a fifth-inning two-run double by J.D. Martinez and an RBI groundout from Lee against left-hander Joe Saunders.

In the fifth, Saunders ran into trouble by walking counterpart Brett Myers to lead off the inning and allowing back-to-back singles to Jason Bourgeois and Jose Altuve to load to bases before the Astros plated three and staked claim to a 4-0 lead.

The D-backs broke through against Myers a half-inning later with an RBI single from Willie Bloomquist to cut the lead to three. Saunders pitched into the seventh inning before being removed after a Bourgeois triple found its way under a diving Justin Upton's glove in right and Altuve singled him home a batter later.

"Joe threw the ball good," Gibson said. "He had some tough luck, things didn't go well, but he threw fine."

Saunders went six-plus innings, allowed five runs on 11 hits, struck out two and walked two.

He was outpitched by Myers, who stymied the D-backs through seven innings, allowing one run on four hits before wilting in the eighth after Bloomquist drew a nine-pitch walk with one out.

Ryan Roberts followed with a double, and Miguel Montero scored Roberts on a bloop single to center two batters later as the D-backs cut the lead to 5-3 and Myers was pulled.

He pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowed three runs on six hits, struck out four and walked three.

"I felt really good today," Myers said. "I felt like I didn't give up many hard-hit balls; a couple of bloopers cost me a couple of runs. Over the course of the game, I started feeling a lot better. They're a good-hitting ballclub and you try to keep them on the ropes as much as you can and mix your pitches. They can hurt you -- showed tonight."

In the ninth, Melancon struck out Johnson, allowed an infield hit to Xavier Nady -- a hot shot corralled by Jimmy Paredes at third but thrown away -- and struck out Gerardo Parra before allowing Goldschmidt's blast.

"It was unbelievable," Young said of Goldschmidt's at-bat. "Without that, we're sitting in the locker room and everybody's frustrated."

And what could have been a frustrating series for the D-backs -- a first-place team splitting with a last-place team -- turned out for the better in the end, courtesy of home runs off the bats of two players from the Houston area.

"That's baseball," Gibson said. "Give these guys some credit for their resiliency. We didn't play very well early on and it's frustrating. It could have been a bad series but it wasn't."

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