Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
The Force was with Josh Collmenter and the D-backs.
It was Star Wars Day at Chase Field on Sunday, and the variety of Darth Vaders, Princess Leias and Yodas in attendance saw the 2011 National League West champion D-backs cap the magical weekend off with a 5-2 win over San Francisco in the series finale.
Arizona closed out their 2011 regular season series against the Giants with a sweep. It marked the first time the D-backs have swept the San Francisco since September 16-18, 2008. They also won five in a row against the Giants, which ties the longest single-season winning streak vs. San Francisco in franchise history.
After Joe Saunders and Ian Kennedy pitched the D-backs to victories in the first two games of the series, it was Collmenter’s turn to do so on Sunday afternoon.
The rookie right-hander was sharp as he threw seven innings, scattering just five hits and striking out four. Collmenter picked up his 10th win of the season
“It was something I was looking forward to doing,” Collmenter said. “I knew coming down to the last start I had the opportunity to. It was a little bit in the back of my head, but not too much. I just wanted to go out there and give the team a chance to win.”
The 2011 campaign has been a strong one for Collmenter, who joined the big league club in mid May. Heading into Sunday, he’d notched a 3.42 ERA in 147.1 innings pitched. Collmenter retired the first nine Giants batters that he faced, receiving three consecutive fly outs in the second frame to sit San Francisco down, 1-2-3. One inning later, Collmenter induced three straight groundball outs for a quick inning of work.
His two blemishes came in the sixth inning when Collmenter allowed solo home runs to Andres Torres and Carlos Beltran.
Collmenter recovered nicely and has now won six of his last eight starts at Chase Field. The right-hander has thrown six or more innings in 16 of his starts and has won eight of them with a 2.29 ERA.
“He’s been great,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “He really has been good all year. We gave him a little extra rest here. He threw a great game for us today. We pushed him up to 100 pitches. He was in a little bit of trouble there, but we wanted him to get out of that and he did a great job.”
The D-backs’ bats picked up where they left off the night before when they scorched the Giants for 15 runs on 15 hits and 13 walks.
After Justin Upton was hit on the helmet with one out and one on, Miguel Montero tagged Giants starter Tim Lincecum for his 36th double of the season, knocking in Upton and Aaron Hill for an early 2-0 lead.
“We’ve had good luck when guys hit J-Up this year,” Gibson said. “Fortunately, he hasn’t been seriously injured, but we have done well in those situations.”
Arizona tacked on another run in the fourth inning on doubles from Paul Goldschmidt and Collin Cowgill. The bottom of the fifth saw Hill drive in Gerardo Parra on a ground-rule double and Geoff Blum notch an RBI groundout.
David Hernandez relieved Collmenter on the mound in the eighth. He surrendered a single to Beltran, but collected a pair of strikeouts to finish the inning.
J.J. Putz came on in the ninth inning, and converted his 24th straight save opportunity and 45th save of the season. He has now tossed 14.2 consecutive scoreless innings, which is the longest streak for an Arizona reliever this year.
Sunday’s win was another big one for the D-backs as they are now locked in a battle for home field advantage with the Brewers. Arizona now has three games left in the regular season, and hopes to win out before the playoffs kick off on Saturday.
“We can only control what we can do,” Gibson said. “Our intentions are to try and win out. We may, we may not. Wherever we go to play on Saturday, that’s fine. We’re going to have to beat whoever we play.”