Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
Kelly Johnson stepped to the plate in the 10th inning on April 28 in Colorado, the D-backs tied up 11-11 with the Colorado Rockies. He was 0-for his last 11, and hitless in that series. Still, Johnson had been scorching hot all month and even with a power lefty on the mound in the person of Franklin Morales, the Rockies had to be at least a bit concerned.
Johnson showed everyone why as he launched a go-ahead (and game-winning as it proved to be) home run to deep right-center field. His one hit in the series was the biggest hit in the series.
Johnson finished the month of April batting .313 with a .404 on-base percentage, a .750 slugging percentage, nine home runs, eight doubles, 18 RBI, 17 runs, 13 walks.
Johnson was named the National League Player of the Month for April on Monday.
“Regardless of joining a team or not,” Johnson said, “you just want to start the season well.”
While Johnson has had other great month-long stretches in his career, he had never hit more than five home runs in a month at any point in his career until this season.
“I’ve never had (a month) like that,” he said. “I’ve driven in runs like that and hit for a high average, but not the home runs.”
Johnson finished the month leading the National League in home runs.
“If they go out or whatever, that’s cool, but I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I just want to keep getting pitches to hit, that’s all I care about.”
This was the fifth time a D-backs player has been named Player of the Month. The previous winners were:
Matt Williams — April 1999
.357 AVG, 8 HR, 25 RBI
Luis Gonzalez — April 2001
.315 AVG, 26 R, 13 HR, .804 SLG
13 HR set N.L. record and tied MLB record for April
Luis Gonzalez — June 2001
.417 AVG, 26 R, 7 2B, 12 HR,
35 RBI, 86 TB, .835 SLG
Justin Upton — May 2009
.373 AVG, 7 HR, 21 RBI
Colorado starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who threw a no-hitter against Atlanta on April 17, was the NL Pitcher of the Month. D-backs pitchers have won that particular award nine times, most recently Dan Haren in May 2008.
D-backs third baseman Mark Reynolds and outfielder Justin Upton each received votes on MVP ballots, as the award was announced Tuesday afternoon. St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols won the award, collecting all 32 possible first-place votes.
Reynolds had a breakout season, posting team-highs with 44 home runs, 102 RBI and 98 runs. Reynolds, whose 662 plate appearances led the D-backs by far, also wound up leading the team in stolen bases and walks. He drew one eighth-place vote, one ninth-place vote and one 10th-place vote.
Upton batted a perfect .300, and his .366 on-base percentage was second behind Ryan Roberts’ .367 mark. Upton’s .899 OPS led all D-backs. He tied Reynolds and Montero for the team lead with 30 doubles, and led the club in hits with 158, a particularly impressive achievement for a player who only played 138 games because of a stint on the disabled list. Upton received one ninth-place MVP vote.
The notice comes on the heels of Dan Haren finishing fifth in a remarkably deep field in this year’s National League Cy Young voting. Haren led the D-backs in essentially every significant pitching number — wins, ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts. Haren’s 1.003 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) led all National League pitchers, as did his 5.87 strikeouts to walk ratio.