New lineup no problem for Young, Goldschmidt

April 6, 2012

PHOENIX -- Diamondbacks teammates Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Young were both a little out of place in Friday's opening-day lineup against the San Francisco Giants.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson slotted Young, the center fielder, second in the batting order, a spot he hadn't hit in all spring and had hit in only once in 2011, exactly one year earlier. Goldschmidt, meanwhile, was taking in his first opening-day start as a major leaguer, having played in just 48 games and the playoffs after an August call-up last season to become the starting first baseman.

Familiar or not, both looked pretty comfortable Friday at Chase Field, crushing home runs off two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum in the first inning to spot the D-backs an early three-run in an eventual 5-4 win.

"That was a lot of fun," Young said. "When you have a matchup like (Ian) Kennedy and Lincecum, you expect it to be a 1-0 game (or a) 2-1 game, but the offense was able to come out -- myself and Goldy and Willie (Bloomquist) starting it off with it a hit. It really gets the momentum on our side and fires everybody up."

Young's shot counted for two runs and seemed a continuation of his success in spring training, where he hit a team-best five home runs. Young complimented Lincecum's ability after the game and said the 2-2 pitch was just a mistake, a slider over the middle, although Lincecum said it was actually a changeup.

"He doesn't make too many mistakes," Young said. "We've been fortunate enough to face him 15 or 16 times at least, so you kind of know what his plan is against you and what types of pitches he's featuring. It's our job just to be able to make adjustments."

Hitting second was Young's first adjustment of the day, though before the game he said he doesn't mind hitting anywhere in the lineup. On the same day a year ago, he went 2 for 5 with a double, a triple and two RBIs out of the second spot in a 6-4 win over the Cubs in Chicago.

Given Young's limited experience in that spot, it came as a surprise to see him penciled in there behind Bloomquist. Gibson wouldn't get into specifics before the game about his decision to put Young there, saying only that he woke up two days ago with a lineup in mind and stuck with it. It didn’t take long for Young to make Gibson look pretty smart.

"Today, it was good," Gibson said. "It doesn't always work out that way. One of the reasons I wanted him up there is he can hit the ball out of the park."

Young, who finished the day 2 for 4, said his and his teammates' ability to adjust to lineup changes is simply a testament to their offensive versatility, depth and willingness to do whatever their manager asks for in pursuit of wins.

"With Gibby and just the type of team we have, you just have to be ready to hit anywhere in the lineup," Young said. "You could be hitting second one day, you could be hitting fifth the next day and leading off another day. As long as you show up ready to go, it really won't catch you off guard and you won't be surprised too much."

While Young's success in a spot he's hit just eight times in his last 317 games was somewhat of a surprise, Goldschmidt's success against Lincecum, who took the loss, was almost expected. The 24-year-old entered the day hitting .556 (5 for 9) against Lincecum, including his first career home run Aug. 2 of last year and another on Sept. 3. He picked up right where he left off.

After getting ahead with a 3-1 count, Goldschmidt smashed a fastball deep into left field, making one-third of his career home runs off Lincecum, who had not allowed a single home run in three previous opening-day starts.

"I was able to get a good hitter's count at 3-1 today, got a fastball to hit," Goldschmidt said. "As with any pitcher, that's what you try to do -- get a good pitch to hit. It's only been a few (at-bats against Lincecum), so hopefully I have a lot more to come."

Goldschmidt may be modest about his success against Lincecum -- and rightfully so, given their respective accomplishments -- but his numbers are anything but. He's now hitting .545 (6 for 11) against Lincecum, a better average than any player with at least 10 at-bats against the right-hander. Off Lincecum, Goldschmidt has five RBIS, a .583 on-base percentage and a whopping 1.455 slugging percentage. His three home runs are tied with Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and Athletics outfielder Seth Smith for the most off the Giants ace. But Howard and Smith needed 26 and 28 at-bats, respectively, to hit their three homers.

But as Goldschmidt was quick to note, it's only been a few at-bats. He struck out in his next at-bat in the third inning and walked in the sixth.

"Hopefully it continues," Gibson said. "It's one of those things, when you look, there's probably no reason for it, but he got ahead there when he hit his home run."

Among all players on the D-backs' opening-day roster, only Young and Goldschmidt entered the day with home runs off Lincecum. Nine innings later, that hadn't changed.

"He's a great pitcher," Goldschmidt said. "Opening Day, first inning ... that's a nice way to start the season."