Cahill bests Parker, A's, rewards D-backs' faith
PHOENIX -- The Diamondbacks did not need any reinforcement Saturday to like the Trevor Cahill trade they made with the Athletics in the offseason. They liked it when they made it a day after the conclusion of the winter meetings, and they would make it again today.
Cahill's commanding performance in an 8-3 victory over the A's -- and former D-backs prospect Jarrod Parker's performance on the opposite side -- simply added an exclamation point.
The five-player deal was billed as the present for the future. Veterans for prospects. The D-backs also added left-hander Craig Breslow to firm up their bullpen while giving up young talent Ryan Cook and Collin Cowgill.
The present suits the surging D-backs (29-30) just fine.
Cahill admitted to some butterflies before facing the organization for which he spent his first six professional seasons, but it did not show. He struck out a season-high seven while going 7 1/3 innings in his third quality start in his last four outings.
"I was probably more nervous than other start this year, going against the team I've played for. It was a definitely a little bit more nerve-wracking," Cahill said.
"It's the guys you know. I got traded for the guy (Parker). You don't really think about it on the mound. Once you starting playing catch, you're not nervous at all. It's just sitting here waiting for the game to start."
The D-backs' offense, meanwhile, had four more extra-base hits, including Miguel Montero's game-changing grand slam in a five-run fifth inning.
Montero could see how much the start meant to Cahill during pregame warmups.
"It's tough. He probably wanted to do too much. He wanted to shut them down and have a great game," Montero said.
"You know what? He calmed down and he did."
Cahill, 4-5 with a 3.36 ERA, earned his first home victory one start after his first shutout of the season last Sunday in San Diego. He had been 0-3 with a 5.16 ERA in four home starts and 3-2 with a 2.64 ERA on the road. He received a nice ovation when he left, the fans also understanding what the matchup meant to him.
For a team that is determined to turn the page on 2011, the D-backs are making it more and more difficult to do so with their recent play. They have started hitting, with 33 runs in their last four games, and have begun the kind of run that turned them into a contender last year, when they won 15 of 17 and 18 of 22 games to demand attention in the NL West.
These D-backs are not there yet, but they have won four in a row, six of seven and nine of 13 since beating Milwaukee on May 26. They are the closest they have been to .500 since May 6, when they were 14-15 in the midst of a five-game losing streak. The 8 1/2-game deficit that lies between them and the Los Angeles Dodgers does not seem as daunting as it once did, and the two teams still have 13 games left against each other this season.
Cahill and Parker were dueling in a 1-1 game through four innings before the D-backs sent 10 men to the plate in the fifth, scoring five runs on five hits. Justin Upton, who had hit safely in his two games back in the lineup following a performance-related break, doubled in the first run for a 2-1 lead before Parker intentionally walked Jason Kubel and struck out the red-hot Paul Goldschmidt on a 97 mph fastball.
Montero, who jokingly asked first-round draft choice Stryker Trahan if he was going to take his job when Trahan took batting practice with the team before the game, followed with his two-out grand slam for a 6-1 lead. Montero hit Parker's 94 mph fastball into the walkway above and beyond the fence in right-center field.
The D-backs saw 35 pitches that inning, were dealt two intentional walks and had two doubles and two singles. The second single came on a perfectly executed hit-and-run play by Willie Bloomquist, who poked an inside fastball to right field to send Gerardo Parra to third and bring up Upton.
"We just got the pressure on him," Gibson said of Parker's struggles in the inning. "Young pitchers, you want to try to get guys on and pressure them a bit. And we didn't go fishing. When he did throw strikes, it cost him. We got pressure on him, got the bases loaded."
Parker, 23, appears to have a bright future. He has pitched well since being recalled from Class AAA Sacramento on April 25, and he had a no-hitter through seven innings in a 12-1 victory at Texas in his last outing before giving up a single in the eighth. He had given up more than two runs in only one of his nine previous starts, and that was when he pitched through an illness.
Parker was making his second start at Chase Field after throwing 5 2/3 shutout innings against the Dodgers last Sept. 27 in his major league debut. Parker did not get a decision in that game, a 7-6 victory remembered mostly for Ryan Roberts' fist-pumping, jersey-removing, walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning.
"I know it makes for a good story," Gibson said of the matchup beforehand.
"We just want to win the game."