Chavez gets big hit(s), Kennedy gets first win since opener as D-backs finish homestand on high note.
By JACK MAGRUDERFS Arizona
PHOENIX -- The Diamondbacks did enough things well in their 5-3 victory over the Braves on Wednesday afternoon that the clubhouse chatter afterward included talk about wifi reception and the availability of Pandora on their evening charter flight to Miami.
A stuffed kangaroo with a lucha libre mask sat in Eric Chavez’s locker stall, and all was right with the world.
The D-backs took two of three games in the series, and they did it in the way (except for a couple of inconsequential infield misplays) they would have drawn it up.
“It helps emotionally, especially with a four-hour flight. Spirits will be good,” Chavez said.
Ian Kennedy recorded his first victory since Opening Day despite pitching without his best stuff, and the bullpen backed him with four shutdown innings, the motivation behind the offseason maneuvers to acquire Heath Bell (who earned his sixth save), Matt Reynolds and Tony Sipp.
Chavez and the offense made the most of their opportunities with runners in scoring position, getting five hits in eight at-bats, after struggling at that facet recently.
An under-the-radar standout in the first six weeks, Chavez had the most damaging hit, a two-out, two-run double off good friend Tim Hudson in the middle of a five-run fourth inning for a 5-3 edge.
Chavez got the best of the matchup Wednesday while renewing the friendship. The two were integral parts of Oakland’s remarkable run to open the millennium, when the A’s made four consecutive playoffs appearances from 2000-03. Hudson won 20 games and was second in the AL MVP balloting in 2000, when Chavez had 26 homers, a figure he increased to 32 and a career-high 34 the next two seasons.
To beat the A’s, you had to go through them and a few others.
“I love Huddy like a brother,” Chavez said.
The two even shared words Wednesday when Atlanta left fielder Jordan Schafer made a nice running catch of Chavez’s fly ball to deep left field in the third inning. Hudson told Chavez it was a great at-bat. Chavez said he was ticked because Hudson broke two of his bats.
Chavez’s ball in the fifth was uncatchable, deep into the left-center field alley, where Chavez has been driving the ball all season. Down 3-2 after Did Gregorius’ one-out RBI single earlier in the inning, Chavez’s blow put the D-backs ahead 4-3. Cody Ross singled in the ensuing at-bat to bring in Chavez, and that was that.
“He was throwing me a lot of sliders today. I’m not really sure why. I don’t know if they picked up something on film,” said Chavez, second on the D-backs with 16 RBIs. "It was a pretty good pitch; it was down and away, I think where he wanted it. I’ve been hitting the ball the other way, so I kind of tried to stay with that approach."
The D-backs had three hits in the fifth inning with runners in scoring position, something Gibson had been harping on after the group went 3 for 43 with runners in scoring position in the previous seven games. Chavez singled in Paul Goldschmidt from second in the first inning, too, after one of Goldschmidt’s career-high three doubles.
“We hope it gets much better. Today it was better,” said Gibson, even crediting Goldschmidt with not trying to do too much on his at-bat in the fifth, when he took a called third strike ahead of cleanup hitter Chavez. "I saw better approaches as well. Chavy stayed out the other way, didn’t roll over on the ball, got the double for us."
Chavez cited the cyclical nature of the game for the slow start in that phase.
“It’s just one of those things,” Chavez said. “We haven’t been hitting well. The numbers are going to change. I don’t put too much emphasis on it. Just worried about winning ballgames.”
Kennedy was in that boat Wednesday. He had not won in his seven starts since going seven innings in a 6-2 victory over the Cardinals in the season opener on April 1. He had three quality starts in his last five, and he admitted it was starting to chafe.
“After a while, it does get frustrating,” he said. “You’ll take every one of these wins.”
Kennedy gave up five hits and walked three in five innings, one with the bases loaded to force in a run in the third inning. He struck out seven, including the first two batters of the game on changeups, but needed 100 pitches to get through five.
“It doesn’t come easy. It wasn’t my best outing. It came in and out," Kennedy said. "Facing Hudson, runs are not going to come real easy. The team picked me up today. You want to throw deeper in the game to save the bullpen a little bit, but the bullpen picked me up."