D-backs' Hill caps 'special' cycle with homer
PHOENIX — After a dress rehearsal two weeks ago, Aaron Hill became the fifth Diamondbacks player to hit for the cycle Monday. He was not trying to finish it off with a home run in his last at-bat in the seventh inning. It just happened.
"I don't think I've ever tried to hit a home run and actually done it, so you just take a deep breath and try to do what you have done your previous at-bats. Just see a ball up and look for something to drive," Hill said.
"It's something you can easily get excited about and try to do a little too much."
Hill's cycle punctuated a return to form by the D-backs' offense, which broke a 21-inning scoreless streak with a three-run first inning to back left-hander Wade Miley in a 7-1 victory over the Mariners.
"It's nice that it happened. It's nice we got the win. It's nice to see what the guys can do. Obviously we know we have it. It was nice to come out and give our pitcher what he deserved."
Hill's cycle almost came in order. He followed Willie Bloomquist's leadoff single with a single to left field in the first inning, tripled to deep left-center in the third and doubled down the left-field line in the fifth.
His homer into the left-field stands — Hill is now tied for the team lead with eight — came on a high off-speed pitch from Shawn Kelley with one out in the seventh, completing the scoring. It was a no-doubter.
The appreciative crowd demanded a curtain call and Hill gave them one, stepping out of the dugout to wave his helmet above his head. Afterward, Jason Kubel was heard in the clubhouse saying that it takes a special player to hit for the cycle. Kubel had one in Minnesota.
"It's nice when you can joke around and have a light clubhouse like we do," Hill said.
"'Hilly' is a guy that probably doesn't like that personal attention, but it was pretty special," Bloomquist said.
Hill has been the D-backs' hottest hitter over the past two weeks, and his 4-for-4 night Monday gave him 20 hits in his past 49 at-bats. He was a double short of the cycle two games into that run, in a 10-0 victory over Colorado here June 5. He homered in the second inning, tripled in the fifth and singled in the seventh before striking out in his final at-bat.
"You have to get the pitch. A lot of things have to come in order," Hill said.
In a clubhouse of workers, Bloomquist praised Hill as being one of the hardest.
"It's gratifying to see good things happen to somebody who plays the game right," Bloomquist said.
"When things aren't right, he's trying to fix it. That can't be said for everybody in the game. 'Oh, it will happen.' He's one of those guys who always thinks he can do better and do more. He works as hard as anybody to get things right. That's the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that nobody sees. He wants to get his swing right."
Miley has been in a similar groove to the one Hill is on almost from the day he joined the starting rotation in late April.
Two things usually happen when he pitches.
He hits. The opponent does not.
Miley's rise from the bullpen to prominence is one of the feel-good stories in the major leagues this season, and though he said he did not have his best command Monday, that is a matter of perspective. Miley (8-3) gave up nine hits in seven innings, but he did not walk a batter and tied a career high with eight strikeouts.
The D-backs had a 4-0 lead when Casper Wells doubled in the Mariners' only run in the sixth. Left fielder Jason Kubel prevented further damage when he threw out Wells at the plate on Dustin Ackley's single.
Miley's ERA dropped to 2.30, fifth-lowest in the NL. The victory came one start after he gave up three hits in a 1-0 loss to Texas last Wednesday.
"Miley was Miley," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.
"They gave me some support, and I was able to make some pitches and keep it right there," said Miley, who has given up one run or fewer in seven of his 11 starts.
Bloomquist appeared to take out a road trip's worth of frustration when he ran through Seattle catcher Jesus Montero to score the D-backs' first run in the first on Justin Upton's single to left. Bloomquist and Michael Saunders' throw reached home at the same time, and Montero could not hold the ball as Bloomquist collided with him.
"I was one step from putting my arm out and sliding, but he slid into the base path and blocked the whole thing. That was the only place to go. It was kind of a last-minute thing. No intent to hurt the guy or anything. I had no place to go. Try to knock the ball loose and score," Bloomquist said.
Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter