Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
The D-backs and Giants have grown accustomed to competing in ultra-competitive, one run games.
Thursday night’s series finale was no different. After the D-backs jumped ahead 2-0 in the sixth, San Francisco battled back to knot the score at 2-2 in the ninth.
The D-backs headed to extra innings in dire need of a rally in order to avoid a three game sweep at the hands of their division rivals.
It was Justin Upton who provided the striking blow in the 11th.
The hard-hitting right-hander crushed a first-pitch home run off Giants pitcher Santiago Casilla to seal the 3-2 walk-off win. It was Upton’s first career walk-off homer, and the 3rd walk-off long ball in team history.
“It’s awesome,” Upton said. “The fact that we just dropped two games and being able to win in that fashion, it’s hopefully a little bit of a boost for the team.”
Although Thursday night’s walk-off homer was the first of his career, Upton has tallied three walk-off hits this season. The first two were short, bloop singles to right field.
“Yeah, it’s a little better than the blooper,” Upton said. “The blooper left some suspense, and that was a little better.”
Kennedy turns in dominant performance
After a pair of excruciating losses to the Giants to start the series, the D-backs turned to ace Ian Kennedy on Thursday night in hopes of salvaging the series finale.
Like he’s done all season long, Kennedy delivered with a stellar pitching performance.
The right-hander unleashed eight innings of one run baseball. He held the Giants lineup to just four hits, walked one, and retired the side in order five times. By notching 10 strikeouts, he tied a season high, which was set on April 25th against the Phillies.
“I threw a lot of fastballs for strikes,” Kennedy said. “My command was pretty good. I just felt like I was trying to pound the zone as much as possible. I knew that they’re a good team, a good record. They’ve proven that you got to stay ahead of them, put them on the defense as soon as possible.”
In his 15 starts this season, Kennedy has now tossed six innings or more in 12 of them, including back-to-back eight inning outings in his previous two starts.
It was clear that Kennedy was locked and loaded from the start. In the opening inning, he retired Aaron Rowand on a fly out before striking out both Manny Burriss and Pablo Sandoval. Kennedy then sat down the next five Giants batters before allowing a two out single in the third.
An unearned run in the fifth was all Kennedy would surrender against the reigning World Champions. He quickly rebounded by posting a two strikeout, 1-2-3 inning in the sixth.
The seventh frame saw San Francisco rally by placing two runners on base. Kennedy had other plans as he recorded a pair of fly outs and a ground out to escape the jam. He then posted yet another 1-2-3 inning in his eighth and final inning of work.
Kennedy now owns a 1.81 career ERA against the Giants along with 49 strikeouts.
Young launches yet another homer at Chase
In his six seasons, D-backs centerfielder Chris Young has launched plenty of home runs out of Chase Field.
Against the Giants, Young drilled a 1-2 pitch into the left field bullpen for a two run homer in the fourth inning. That long ball was Young’s 14th of the season.
With that home run, Young has now hit 62 home runs at Chase Field in his career. That total is the most home runs hit in the ballpark by any player since 2006.
Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
In last week’s 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the D-backs made a splash with the selection of highly touted UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer.
The third overall pick got his first taste of life as a D-back on Tuesday, when he received the full Chase Field experience and attended the series-opening game against the rival Giants. Bauer was escorted on a tour of the ballpark and met D-backs skipper Kirk Gibson and the coaching staff, as well as several of the team’s current players.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the big leagues… never something that was an expectation or a reality until just recently,” Bauer said. “So getting to meet those guys and have a conversation is pretty spectacular.”
Bauer wasn’t alone during his D-backs journey. His father, Warren, was also in attendance throughout Tuesday’s events, while the entire Bauer clan made the trip to Phoenix this week.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Bauer said. “My family and I are really close. My mom and my sister are actually in town with me. They chose to go shopping right now, but they’ll be here for the game. They’ve been a huge part in my process, my development, and raising me obviously. It’s really good to share it with them.”
The 6-foot-2 Bauer is fresh off a dominating season as a member of the UCLA baseball team. In 16 starts, he posted a 13-2 record with a miniscule 1.25 ERA. Bauer’s 203 strikeouts led the entire NCAA. Of his 16 starts, 10 of them were complete games.
The right-hander’s success did not go unnoticed as he received plenty of national recognition. He claimed National Player of the Year honors from Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball. Bauer was also awarded as the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, and was a top-three semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
This week’s visit to the Valley of Sun wasn’t Bauer’s first trip to Arizona. Just three weeks ago, Bauer and his Bruins came to Tempe for a three-game series against Arizona State. Bauer dominated in his May 28th start, unleashing a complete-game shutout over the Sun Devils.
“That was a fun night,” Bauer said. “I beat ASU my freshman year, and they got me in a bad way last year. So I was happy to go out there and pitch well.”
Of course, all those accolades and performances came as a collegiate player. Bauer now faces the tall task of translating his talent to the professional level.
“When I’d miss spots in college at 93, 94 mph, guys still had trouble squaring it up,” Bauer said. “Even if they did get a good pass on it, maybe it was a fly out to the track. But you miss spots in professional baseball, it’s a double off the wall. It’s a home run. (I’m) probably just going to have to be finer with my control.”
Bauer’s professional debut has yet to be determined. He has not signed with the D-backs, and is unsure of when those negotiations will be hammered out. All that matters to him is that it’s sometime in the near future.
“I want to get back out there on the field,” Bauer said. “I’m starting to miss it already.”
Whenever Bauer does sign, he will embark on what he hopes to be a rapid ascension through the minor league ranks. Despite being just 20 years old, Bauer hopes to be on the Chase Field mound in the near future.
“I hope to be up by next year at some point,” Bauer said. “I’m fully confident in my abilities, and that I can compete and give my team a chance to win at the big league level. That being said, it’s not entirely my decision. It depends on how I do obviously in the minor leagues and as the season gets going and (things) like that.”
Whether or not Bauer reaches the Major Leagues next season remains to be seen. However, the talented right-hander holds high expectations for his future.
“I’m a winner,” Bauer said. “That’s my goal, to go out there and win.”