Notes: Reflecting on a Perfect Home Opener
Photography: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
By Greg Dillard
In front of a sellout crowd at Chase Field, Ian Kennedy turned in a dominating performance on the mound and the D-backs took home a13-2 victory.
Following a variety of pregame festivities, the D-backs took the field against the visiting Cincinnati Reds in the 14th home opener in team history. Behind Kennedy’ stellar pitching performance and a high-powered offense, the D-backs won their fifth straight home-opening game.
In his second start of the season, Kennedy gave the hometown crowd plenty to cheer about. It started in the first inning when he set the Reds down 1-2-3. Kennedy was just as impressive the rest of the way as he hurled eight innings of one run baseball to earn his first win of the season.
“It was exciting,” said Kennedy, who tied a career high with his eight innings of work. “I can’t say thanks enough for all the offense. (Miguel Montero) called a great game, and I don’t think I shook him more than two times. If I did, he pretty much knew what I wanted to throw. But once again, our offense just tacked on more runs to secure the lead.”
Miguel Montero on the home opener:
The Arizona bats came out swinging in support of Kennedy. In the bottom of the first, Justin Upton singled home the team’s first run of the game, and then came around to score two batters later on a Stephen Drew RBI double.
The hit parade continued in the sixth when Xavier Nady drove home two more runs on a double down the left field line. One inning later, Upton struck again, this time smacking his second home run of the season off the left field foul pole.
Kelly Johnson and Chris Young added a pair of home runs in a sixth run eighth. Miguel Montero turned in a three hit performance to raise his season average to a red hot .545.
The team’s 13 runs set a franchise record for a home opener.
“Guys got their pitches and didn’t miss it,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “That’s really one of the things that the Reds do really well, they don’t miss their pitches. We did a really good job of that tonight.”
Kelly Johnson on the home opener:
Drew makes first start of 2011
For the first time this season, Stephen Drew was penciled in as the starting shortstop in Gibson’s lineup.
It was a long awaited debut for Drew, who has been battling an abdominal strain that caused him to be held out of the starting lineup for the season’s first five games.
The star shortstop’s lone appearance prior to tonight’s game was when he earned a pinch-hit walk on April 4th against the Cubs.
“We’re happy to have him in,” Gibson said. “Obviously, he’s one of our big players. He’s got experience, and he’s very good at shortstop. He makes us much better.”
In his first at-bat, Drew made a grand entrance, lining a double just inside the left field line to score Upton, draw a rousing ovation from the crowd and give the D-backs a 2-0 lead.
Drew reached again later, this time on a walk in his sixth-inning at-bat.
His return is crucial as he is undoubtedly a key piece of the D-backs’ roster. Drew is coming off a 2010 campaign in which he posted a .278 batting average, 33 doubles and 12 triples.
Bloomquist earning time in starting lineup
When utility man Willie Bloomquist signed with the D-backs this past offseason, he was expected to serve primarily as a bench player.
That is likely to be his role for the majority of the season, but Bloomquist’s stellar play has granted him increased time in the starting lineup. Through the first five games, he batted .348 with four RBI and a league-leading five stolen bases.
“I think he deserves to be in the lineup,” Gibson said. “I like the way he approaches the game. He’s very aggressive, which is something we want to be. He’s a good leader, a good teacher on the field and in and around the clubhouse.”
Bloomquist started the season’s first five games filling in for Drew at shortstop. In Friday’s game he started in left field against left-handed throwing Travis Wood, and batted leadoff. His first-inning double extended his hitting streak to six games.
In the eighth, Bloomquist smacked an RBI single to right field.
Gibson pleased with D-backs performance so far
Six games into the regular season, Gibson likes what he’s seen so far from his ball club. The D-backs own a 3-3 record heading into game two of three game series against the Reds.
“We’ve played very well,” Gibson said. “I’m very happy with the way we’ve played so far. I want to play much better, but it’s a process.”
While the season is still very young, Gibson is adamant that this is a different team than in year’s past.
“We’re not the same team,” Gibson said. “We’ve played very aggressively. You don’t see anybody loafing. I don’t think anybody’s questioning their heart and their desire, and their willingness to try things. We’re on a mission to compete in postseason ball. It takes time. It’s a journey. We can’t be deterred from pushing through to get there.”