The Diamondbacks brought a smaller, more up-tempo concept to their offense into spring training, and they carried it into the regular season with a 6-2 victory over the Cardinals on Opening Day.
Ian Kennedy shut down the Cardinals’ offense and the D-backs backed him with 15 hits, including seven doubles, in the season opener for both before 48,033 at Chase Field. They shortened their approach to attack St. Louis right-hander Adam Wainwright while also taking the extra base offensively and preventing the Cardinals from doing the same on the other side.
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“This is the kind of game we want to play,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “The team was in synch tonight. Everybody picked everybody else up.”
Gerardo Parra had four hits, including three doubles, A.J. Pollock had three hits and newcomer Martin Prado also had two doubles. Jason Kubel and Aaron Hill also had two hits apiece.
“Maybe we don’t have a lot of power, but we have a lot of fast guys. It’s a great team. Very athletic. This is no surprise,” said Parra, a nice fit in the leadoff spot with a career batting average of .298 there.
“You saw a lot of doubles. We want to put the baseball in play. Nothing too much. Just continue one at-bat after another and don’t put any pressure on ourselves.”
Justin Upton might have homered in Atlanta, but Prado drove in one run and scored twice, both times using the skill set the D-backs were excited about when they acquired him in the offseason blockbuster trade.
After the D-backs took a 3-1 lead on a tiebreaking two-run double by Pollock off Wainwright in the fourth inning, Prado scored from second in the fifth after an infield single by Hill when the ball got away from first baseman Allen Craig. Prado also scored in a two-run seventh on a sacrifice fly by Miguel Montero to short/medium center field for a 6-2 lead.
“That was a good, good game,” Gibson said. “A lot of things we worked on. The elements showed up in the game. The base running stuff. Guys are making the proper reads.”
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt, playing two days after signing a five-year, $32 million contract extension, singled and scored in the three-run fifth off Wainwright and made noticeable contributions on defense. He handled two one-hop throws at first base and also made an alert cutoff and relay to second base to throw out Daniel Descalso to cut short a Cardinals rally in the seventh inning that had narrowed the D-backs’ lead to 4-2.
“Those are the things we have talked about, especially that cut,” Goldschmidt said. “We had all the bases covered, and it was nice to get out of that inning
Added Gibson: “‘Goldy’ had a phenomenal game defensively. It was big. We worked on this all spring, and of course the pitching performance by Ian was awesome.”
Kennedy had the most victories in the National League the last two seasons, following a 21-4 2011 with a 15-12 2012. It might have been lost on the rest of the league, but not on those paying attention. Kennedy located his fastball well and kept all his pitches down in the zone Monday night, the key to his success in 2011, when he finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting.
“That’s kind of the old Ian we saw a couple of years ago,” Gibson said. “Awesome. I don’t know how else to explain. He really got rolling. Had everything working. Fastball spotted well, pumped up to 94 (mph). Changeup was good. He had it all working for him.”
Kennedy threw first-pitch strikes to 23 of the 25 batters he faced, a remarkable ratio that left him at 94 pitches through seven innings. Gibson was not about to send him out for the eighth inning this early in the season, and David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler finished up with no problems.
“It makes it a lot easier on yourself when you are ahead like that,” Kennedy said.