Series preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

BY foxsports • April 19, 2011


Left-hander Joe Saunders knows how to deal with runners on base.
   
After getting five ground ball double plays behind him Saturday night, Saunders has induced 83 double plays since the start of the 2008 season, second in the major leagues behind left-hander Mark Buehrle of the White Sox, who got two Sunday to increase his total to 86.
   
The D-backs' five double plays tied a franchise game record.
   
"That's what I really pride myself on, letting the defense work for me and getting ground balls when I need to," said Saunders, who fell to 0-2 in a 5-3 loss. "I made some good pitches when I needed to."
   
Saunders has logged 603 innings while going 42-33 since 2008, spending most of the first three seasons with the Los Angeles Angels before coming to the D-backs in the trade that sent Danny Haren to the Angels last July 25.
   
Because Buehrle has pitched more innings, Saunders has the best ratio of double players, getting 1.32 per nine innings.
   
Saunders' fastball has touched 93 mph in his first three starts this season, but he relies more on location of his three-pitch mix than throwing the ball by the hitter, especially in double play situations.
   
"It's any pitch, any pitch you really focus on locating down in the zone, whether you're trying to get them out on their front foot or jamming them," Saunders said.
   
"I think I had some jam-job double play balls, and I got some guys out front. That's what my game is all about."
   
Saunders is the second pitcher this season to get five ground ball double plays. Texas left-hander Matt Harrison got six in a 5-3 victory over the New York Yankees 10 days ago.
   
The D-backs have had five double plays in a game four times, the most recent against the Yankees last year.

NOTES, QUOTES
   
--C Miguel Montero has started 13 of the first 14 games this season, starting against San Francisco LHP Madison Bumgarner on Sunday after driving in two runs and scoring the other in a 5-3 loss on Saturday night. "We've had a lot of off days and he's obviously a big part of our team," manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's swinging the bat good, and we're getting good production out of him." Montero's .391 batting average was fifth in the majors entering Monday's games, and his 1.124 OPS was sixth.
   
--RF Justin Upton singled, hit a home run and walked in three plate appearances against San Francisco LHP Madison Bumgarner, in what could become a feature match-up in the NL West for the rest of the decade. Upton, 23, is 4-for- 6 in his career against Bumgarner, 21. Upton's homer to left-center field was estimated at 435 feet. He hit a 478-footer earlier in the homestand.
   
--1B/LF Xavier Nady has made four starts this season, all at first base and all against left-handers. "I've tried to keep everybody going a little bit," manager Kirk Gibson said. "I'm always looking for the right combination." 1B Juan Miranda and 1B Russell Branyan have made five starts apiece. Nady has his first stolen base since 2008 on Sunday after walking with two out in the eighth inning, setting up a game-tying single in the D-backs' 6-5, 12-inning victory.
   
--2B Kelly Johnson singled to center and was robbed of a single to right Sunday, when he returned to the lineup after getting a day off Saturday after his batting average dropped to .157. "We need to get him back to where he is confident and comfortable again, so we're hoping this will help," manager Kirk Gibson said of the off day, when Johnson spent extra time with hitting coach Don Baylor.
   
--Neither RHP David Hernandez nor LHP Joe Paterson has given up a run this season in seven appearances apiece, although each has allowed one inherited runner to score. Hernandez has thrown 7 1/3 innings while specialist Paterson has thrown 2 2/3. Paterson, the only lefty in the bullpen, has permitted one of eight inherited runners to score.
   
BY THE NUMBERS: 83 -- Double plays induced by LHP Joe Saunders, second in the majors behind White Sox LHP Mark Buehrle (86) since the start of the 2008 season.
   
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's what I really pride myself on, letting the defense work for me and getting ground balls when I need to." -- LHP Joe Saunders, who got five ground ball double plays Saturday.

ROSTER REPORT
   
MEDICAL WATCH:
   
--RHP Aaron Heilman (right shoulder tendinitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 14.
   
--INF Geoff Blum (sore right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. The injury wasn't considered to be serious.
   
--LHP Zach Duke (broken left hand) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He was hit by a line drive March 12, and he will be out until May.


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