Dominant start shows Kennedy still owns West
SAN DIEGO -- Ian Kennedy still owns the NL West.
Kennedy ran his winning streak to 12 against the division that matters most, his own, to help the Diamondbacks win their second series of the year with a 3-1 victory in San Diego on Thursday.
It took Kennedy nine pitches to settle in -- San Diego went triple, single, single to open the first -- but after the fourth batter of the game, the Padres were simply no match while falling to 0-6 against him.
“You know you are not going to throw a shutout every time. You are going to give up hits. If you’ve been in that situation before, 'OK, I’ve been here' -- you just work through it,” said Kennedy, now 2-0 on the season.
“I can’t change anything about it, so I’m just going to throw one pitch at a time and try to get this guy. It’s the next pitch, and the next pitch after that. That’s how slow you have to think.”
Chris Young, who is on a personal crusade to show that Petco Park is a hitter’s park, gave Kennedy some working room with a looping double in the fifth and a line-drive shot into the left-field seats in the eighth. His double started the really that tied the score 1-1 on Aaron Hill’s single, and his homer added the finishing touch after Jason Kubel put the D-backs ahead with a double in the sixth.
Young, who won Tuesday's series opener with a two-run homer in the 11th inning, is now tied for the National League lead with three homers. He also tied Mark Reynolds for third place in franchise history with 121 homers (Luis Gonzalez hit 224 and Steve Finley hit 153).
“Ian settled in amazingly,” Young said. "It was kind of crazy. They had their chance in the first, and after that, I don’t know if he flipped the switch or something, but he zoned it in and shut them down. You see guys have a shaky start and it kind of gets to them, and the next thing you know they are out of the game in the third inning or so.
“That’s why he is who he is. He was able to keep his composure and not panic.”
Kennedy gave up five hits, one walk and struck out nine, the 10th time he's whiffed at least nine in his career. He's done it four times against the Padres, three times in San Diego.
The D-backs’ bullpen backed Kennedy with scoreless innings from Brad Ziegler, Bryan Shaw and J.J. Putz, who has converted all four save opportunities he's had this season.
Kennedy is 12-0 with a 2.33 ERA in 17 starts against the West since his last division loss in September 2010. What impresses teammates is his ability to consistently stay one step ahead of hitters he has faced time and time again.
“The thing about division opponents is they get to see you all the time,” shortstop Willie Bloomquist said. "If he is able to put up those kinds of numbers against people in our division, it gives you an idea of how good he has been. We see them 18 times a year. Chances are they are going to hit him in the rotation every time. If he is able to keep doing that, that is very impressive.
“The biggest thing tonight is he limited them. He put out the fire as soon as it got going.”
Kennedy likes the cat-and-mouse game inherent in facing the same opponents time and again, a familiarity that is magnified because all five NL West teams also hold spring training in Arizona, providing further study time.
“I have fun in those situations where I have faced guys so many times. Like I’ve said before, guys get themselves out a lot more than I get them out,” Kennedy said.
“It’s more of that fun factor. It’s like, if you have faced somebody so many times, you wonder if they are thinking along with you. Do I switch it up? Do I go with it again? I love that about pitching. The game within the game. Sometimes it backfires, sometimes it doesn’t. There have been times when I overthink it.”
That hasn't happened much lately. Kennedy was 21-4 and fourth in the Cy Young balloting last season, and he's one of four NL starters who've won their first two appearances.
After Cameron Maybin tripled on the second pitch of the Padres’ half of the first inning, Will Venable singled up the middle to make it 1-0. When Chase Headley singled to right, the Padres seemed to have something going. But not really.
Kennedy struck out the side on fastballs to leave the runners in place, then retired 16 of the next 17 he faced, including 12 in a row after Jason Bartlett’s one-out double into the left-field corner in the second inning. After Kubel gave the D-backs (5-1) the lead in the sixth, Kennedy gave up a walk and a single before retiring his final batter on a one-hopper back to the mound to end the Padres' sixth.
“We’re sure appreciative that he is able to step it up in big-game situations like that,” Young said.
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