For this baseball season, the Diamondbacks wished, possibly beyond hope, that an offensive complement to Paul Goldschmidt would appear.
After all, Goldschmidt has carried the offensive load and, in the process, leads the National League in RBIs. Coming into Friday’s game with San Diego, Goldschmidt’s run batted in total reached 83 and the next highest on the team was 40 by Martin Prado.
If the two previous games are any indication, Goldschmidt may have some help.
Second baseman Aaron Hill seems to come to the offensive rescue.
At least, for now.
Hill slammed a pair of doubles in his first two times at bat to trigger a 17 hit attack and the Diamondbacks roared past the visiting San Diego Padres, 10-0 before 22,279 Friday night in Chase Field.
That’s the good news.
The ugly is Hill injured his right leg rounding first on his second double of the game, and pulled up short at second base. The Diamondbacks said the injury was tightness in his right hamstring and Hill was removed from the game for precautionary reasons.
The offense was aided by a stellar effort from right-hander Randall Delgado. In spinning a three hit, complete game shut out, Delgado allowed only four base runners and finished with exactly 100 pitches thrown.
“This is the way it’s suppose to work out,” said manager Kirk Gibson. “We won’t get this kind of offense every night, so we’ll cherish this and get ready for the next game.”
Hill’s productive start came on consecutive nights. On Thursday night, Hill reached the left-field bleachers with his fifth home run of the season and a run-producing double to assist the D-backs in a 3-1 win over the Cubs.
Hill barely recovered from a broken left wrist and that injury compromised most of his first half. Out from April 15 until June 25, Hill returned to the line-up late last month, and struggled to raise his production level. Upon his return, Hill was hitting just .255 (24-for-90) but production in the last two games would indicate a swing in a positive direction.
Gibson said he’s already scratched Hill for Saturday’s game, Hill will likely play Sunday and the Diamondbacks have an off-day Monday.
If the offense came alive, so did the starting pitching.
Delgado delivered one of the better pitching efforts of the season, and did so with economy of pitches. The right-handed native of Panama turned in the fifth “quality start” in his last six starts, and now has a string of 14.2 consecutive scoreless innings.
In going the distance for his first career shut out and complete game in the majors, Delgado also came up with a 2-for-3 night. In the process, he became the first Arizona pitcher with a shutout and multi-hit game since Randy Johnson turned the feat against Colorado on September 14, 2003.
“The coaches keep telling me to focus on making the first pitch a strike,” Delgado said. “I was able to keep the ball down and that’s the key for me. This is something I’m learning and it’s a process, a slow process.”
To emphasis his pitch location as down in the strike zone, Delgado allowed only eight balls to the outfield, and one was a fourth inning, leadoff double from Chase Headley. The other base runners were a single by Everth Cabrera to lead-off the game, a one-out walk to Yonder Alonzo in the seventh, and two-out single to Chris Denorifa in the ninth inning.
In all, seven of the 27 outs were hit to the outfield, and Delgado walked only one and fanned five hitters.
“(Delgado) just attacked the strike zone pitch after pitch,” said catcher Wil Nieves. “We told him to be aggressive and attack the strike zone. At this point, he has to learn to trust himself and to keep the ball down. When he does that, he’s a very good pitcher.”
The shut is the second by a Diamondbacks pitcher this season. Right-hander Brandon McCarthy turned in the other white-wash and that was against the Marlins in Miami on May 18.
The 17 hit attack was led by Cliff Pennington (3-for-4, two runs scored) and Martin Prado (3-for-4, 2 RBIs). Cody Ross chipped in with two hits, two RBIs and his sixth home run of the season.
Except for Gerardo Parra and Goldschmidt, all starters had at least one hit.
Right-fielder Gerardo Parra made perhaps “the catch” of the season in the seventh inning.
Using all of his 5-11 frame, Parra scaled the seven foot, six-inch right field fence, reached his glove over the yellow line barrier and pulled in a potential home run from the bat of Will Venable with two outs in the seventh inning.
After slamming into the fence, Parra was slow to recover and finally showed the ball. When he trotted off the field, the fans realized the ball was lodged in his glove and responded accordingly.
THE BRAUN IDENTITY
While discussion surrendering the Brewers’ Ryan Braun’s suspension continues to swirl in the media and on the baseball diamond, there’s another expression in this equation.
That’s the voice of those who attend games, buys the beer, dons the licensed apparel, and creates the television ratings.
Perhaps one organization which may have a pulse on the popular opinion might be the San Diego Padres. When San Diego opened a three game series with the Diamondbacks at Chase Field Friday night, the Padres flew to the desert just after a four game set with the Brewers in Milwaukee.
Collectively, they brought a sampling of public opinion, and although not scientific, the fans’ response was duly noted.
“I’m not a native of Wisconsin, but the fans took it hard,” San Diego manager Bud Black said before Friday night’s game. “(Braun’s) done a great deal on and off the field in that community and he’s considered very generous.”
Though he did not traverse the streets of Milwaukee with clip board and pen, Black said he was able to gauge popular opinion.
“I think it’s human nature to be let down,” he added. “Yeah, the fans and the community are little hurt.”
Coming into play Friday, the Brewers were 42-59, and 21 games out of first place in National League Central Division race. Only the White Sox, Astros and Marlins had a lower winning percentage.
In a town which usually draws close to capacity crowds for most games, the immediate crowds at Brewers game reflect the inability to win, and reaction to Braun.
In their four home dates since the Braun suspension, the Brewers drew 118,513 for the Padres’ four game set. That’s an average of 29,628 and below the Brewers’ average of 31,344 for 55 dates so far this season.