Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
First place in the National League West hung in the balance on Wednesday night, with the D-backs entering the day a slim half game behind the Giants.
But with the Pirates handing San Francisco a 9-2 loss earlier in the afternoon, the D-backs and Giants were tied atop the NL West standings, as Josh Collmenter toed the rubber vs. the Astros in his 16th start of the season and sole possession of first place on the line.
He and the D-backs didn’t disappoint.
The rookie was coming off two rough outings against Los Angeles, but it was a far different Collmenter on Wednesday. He retired the side in five of his seven innings and didn’t allow a single hit or run until the top of the fifth inning.
“It was big for me confidence-wise to get back on track and give our team a good start,” Collmenter said. “Especially with the Giants losing today and reeling as of late, we had to take advantage of that. So I wanted to make sure that I went out and took care of business.”
After a rocky fifth inning in which he surrendered a pair of runs, Collmenter returned to form to cruise through the sixth and seventh innings. He finished his outing off with a strikeout of Humberto Quintero for the final out of the seventh.
Quintero was Collmenter’s fifth strikeout as he scattered four hits and gave up just two earned runs on the evening. The right-hander was effectively able to use all of his pitches, including his curveball.
“Anytime my fastball command is like that then all the other pitches play off that,” Collmenter said. “That’s something I got away from last time, trying to force command too much instead of taking a step back and backing off a little bit.”
Collmenter’s command was undoubtedly better on Wednesday night. After failing to pitch deep into his previous two starts, he lasted at least five innings for the 12th time this season.
“He did what he had to do,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “There was some question why he deserved to be in the starting rotation still. I think he showed everybody why, and more importantly our bullpen was beat up bad from previous games. Seven strong innings allowed us to get our bullpen in better condition.”
The D-backs’ bats came out swinging behind their starting pitcher early on. Willie Bloomquist led off the bottom of the first with a homer into left field. It was his second career leadoff home run. He first accomplished the feat on April 4 of this season.
That wasn’t all for the D-backs in the opening inning. Paul Goldschmidt kept the foot on the gas by driving a 2 RBI single into left.
The offense tacked on three more runs in the game and David Hernandez earned the save in the ninth to capture the 6-3 win.
Alas, the D-backs are back in first place.