D-backs party hardy for Gibby
PHOENIX — When Kirk Gibson was in his teens, his mother surprised him with a birthday party he pretty much hated. "That is so not me," he said Wednesday afternoon. The one the D-backs threw three hours later was much more to his liking.
Gibson turned 57. The D-backs turned 12.
With eight runs and eight hits in the first inning, the D-backs cruised to a 12-6 victory over San Diego at Chase Field behind 17 hits, two-run home runs from Paul Goldschmidt and Martin Prado, and right-hander Chase Anderson, who has not lost in three major league starts.
The D-backs did not blow out candles, they blew out San Diego.
"We’ll take the win any day. To get it on a manager’s birthday, even better," Goldschmidt said.
"That’s what he said he wanted," center fielder A.J. Pollock said.
The D-backs (22-33) have won six of their last eight series and closed to within 2-1/2 games of the Padres in the NL West, the first goal in their step-by-step process to get back into contention.
"We started off awful this year, but this last month we’ve played better," Goldschmidt said.
"We know we’ve been playing better, and we know we have a long way to go. A lot of adjustments still to make, but it’s been nice to play better lately."
The D-backs put this one away with the highest-scoring first inning in franchise history, with the new 1-2 punch of leadoff hitter Pollock and Gerardo Parra doing their share of damage with two hits apiece. Pollock scored twice and drove in two runs, Parra capped the inning with an RBI double and most everyone else passed the baton.
Some of the early hits found holes — Pollock and Parra hit groundballs through the infield, Goldschmidt looped a double over first base and Prado flipped a single into short right field for a quick 2-0 lead that grew to 3-0 on Chris Owings’ line single, 5-0 on Ender Inciarte’s two-run single and finally 8-0 after inning-ending doubles by Pollock and Parra.
"We got a little lucky with some hits, and then things started rolling. The goal is to score runs early and often," said Pollock, who hit leadoff for the fourth straight game.
The D-backs’ first inning hitting approach was pleasing to Gibson.
"They spoiled some pitches," Gibson said. "Just served balls out the other way. It was a good battle inning, for sure. You put the ball in play, good things can happen. We hit some ground balls that found some holes, but that’s better than pulling off the ball. We haven’t been as good as we should be in those situations as we should be, but that inning was good.
"Kind of set the tone for us."
The D-backs open a four-game series against Cincinnati on Thursday riding a nice run. The pitching staff allowed only seven runs while taking two of three games form the New York Mets last weekend, and they offense had 22 runs in the San Diego series, including Pollock’s walk-off two-run homer in the ninth inning of a 7-5 victory Monday. The D-backs are 13-11 with three games to play in May, and while San Francisco continues to hold a double-digit lead in the NL West, the D-backs are making strides. With the improvement in the starting rotation, the games have become more normal.
"Early on it was a horrible feeling, because we weren’t competitive," Pollock said. "A lot of games were slipping away from us. For awhile now, we feel like we have been competitive. No (series) sweeps or anything, but we have played good ball and won series. We feel pretty good about that."
Anderson (3-0) joined eight D-backs including Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Brandon Webb and Daniel Hudson to win his first three starts of the season. The D-backs have scored 33 runs for him in victories over the White Sox, Dodgers and now San Diego.
"Shoot, that’s a pitcher’s dream right there," Anderson said.
Anderson was hit in the left calf and knocked down by a line drive from Jedd Gyorko with two outs in the fifth inning, but after a visit from Gibson and the training staff, Anderson remained in the game. With a 10-4 lead and one out away from qualifying for a victory, was there any doubt? Anderson was removed for a pinch-hitter in the last of the fifth, but said he is fine.
470 — distance in feet of Goldschmidt’s seventh inning home run that struck the message board above the batter’s eye, just under the line score, as estimated by ESPN Stats and Info
It appears Pollock will be in the leadoff spot for awhile. He was 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs on Wednesday, his fourth straight game hitting first, and the third against a right-handed pitcher. Right about now. Pollock is hitting .386 as the first batter of an inning, and he was 2-for-3 Wednesday, singling to open the first inning and double to begin two-run seventh. When does a streak become a trend? Maybe right about now.