This is how the 2013 script is to be written.
Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, the kind of win they posted Thursday night occurred all too infrequent.
Starter Wade Miley was strong and efficient, the offense chipped in with timely hitting and the bullpen slammed the door.
The end result was a convincing and possibly motivating 3-1 victory over the visiting Chicago Cubs before 23,341 in Chase Field. The win moved the D-backs a game closer to the National League West Division-leading Dodgers. With a loss Thursday night to Cincinnati, the L. A. lead over the Diamondbacks shrunk to one-half game.
If the Diamondbacks showed life in the series finale against the Cubs, Miley was the engine.
Picking himself off the mat from a sluggish beginning to the season, the NL rookie-of-the-year runner-up last season turned in his fourth “quality start” in his last five starts. In his last five starts, Miley is 3-1 and a 1.89 ERA. With the victory Thursday night, he improved to 7-8 and dropped his season’s ERA to 3.86.
Should the D-backs are to remain in the NL West race, Miley needs to be a factor.
In his recent resurgence, Miley pointed to a 7-2 loss against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 31 as a turning factor.
“At that time, I was really struggling and (manager Kirk Gibson) came out and said some things,” Miley pointed out. “From that point, I just go after guys and pitch to keep my team in the game.”
For the Diamondbacks, the results are gratifying.
Since that start in Chicago, Miley responded with a record of 4-3 and three no decisions. Part of the improvement is credited to shortstop Cliff Pennington, who has developed a strong friendship with Miley.
“When things were going bad, I went up to him and said, ‘are you a country boy or not?’” Pennington said in reference to Miley’s Louisiana roots. “He acknowledged that firmly, and we started talking on a regular basis. It’s not ground-breaking stuff, but it’s helped He’s really turned it around.”
For his part, Miley said the past is far behind in the rear view mirror and there’s always the immediate task at hand.
“(Against the Cubs Thursday night), I didn’t have my best stuff but give (catcher Wil) Nieves credit, he called a great game,” Miley said. “Going forward, the key is to throw strikes. If I do that on a regular basis, I’ll be okay.”
In support, the offense started early and had a great opportunity to put this one away at the start. From the first pitch, the offense was strong enough and Miley turned back to the clock to replicate his strong efforts of last season.
At the start, Adam Eaton opened the game with a walk. Aaron Hill followed with a drive into the left field corner, and Eaton ran past a Matt Williams’ stop sign to score the D-backs initial run.
From there, Cubs’ starter Carlos Villanueva walked two more in the inning before striking out Nieves with two out of the bases loaded.
Yet, the Diamondbacks picked up Miley in the fourth on back-to-back doubles from Nieves and Pennington to score one run. Hill added a solo home run in the fifth, and Miley then took matters into his own hands.
Miley finished with 7 and two-third strong innings, allowed five hits, one run, walked three and fanned four hitters.
J. J. Putz, in the role of set-up, struck out pinch hitter Dioner Navarro with a runner in scoring position and two out in the eighth, and Brad Ziegler slammed the door in the ninth for his fifth save.
“Good effort from Miley, and that really helped the bullpen,” said Gibson afterward. “Those guys have been taxed in recent games. Plus, good effort from the bullpen to close it down.”
Just like it’s drawn up in spring training.
THE KENNEDY FILE
For a pitcher who was to be the Diamondbacks’ titular head of the staff, right-hander Ian Kennedy has fallen on rough times.
Just two years removed from a 21 game winning season, and fourth in the National League Cy Young balloting, times and fortunes hit Kennedy with all the force of a train wreck.
Consider some numbers –
– three wins in 19 starts this season and a 5.22 ERA
– fifth among National League pitchers in allowing home runs
– second among National League pitchers in both earned runs allowed, and total runs allowed
– tied for first among National League pitchers in hit batsmen
– tied for fifth among National League pitchers in wild pitches
– no wins since defeating the Cubs in Wrigley Field on June 1
The dilemma is location and, to a subtle degree, mechanics.
Manager Kirk Gibson pointed out Kennedy’s release is lower than in previous years, and Kennedy needs to get his release point higher. Gibson also pointed out Kennedy has a tendency to drop his arm and that movement cuts down the eventual placement.
“Right now, it’s about pitch execution,” Gibson said prior to Thursday game with Cubs in Chase Field. “Things are spinning out of control for him. Once (Kennedy) allows one run here, and one run there, he can’t stop the opposing team. He needs to cut down on allowing multiple runs, and that’s tough.”
Gibson rejected the notion of sitting Kennedy out for a turn or two, and indicated the 28 year-old native of Huntington Beach, Calif, will take the ball for his next turn. That’s against the Rays in Tampa next Tuesday night.