By Josh Greene
As the D-backs wind down their 2011 regular season road schedule with the weekend series in San Diego, Executive Vice President & General Manager Kevin Towers is once again back at his old PETCO Park stomping grounds. Continue reading
Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
The All-Star break afforded many D-backs players the chance to travel and spend some time away from the diamond. The break gave them a breather from the intense grind of a 162-game season.
They now return for the final 70 games of the 2011 regular season recharged and anxious to compete for a division title.
Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
Since the start of the 2011 season, Ryan Roberts has captivated fans with his red-hot bat and highlight-reel defensive plays.
Whether it’s diving over the railing to haul in a foul ball or igniting a rally with a leadoff hit, Roberts has been a driving force behind the D-backs’ surge to the top of the division standings.
D-backs fans showed their enthusiastic support for Roberts by selecting him in the Fan Vote Bobblehead contest. Roberts’ bobblehead will be given to the first 15,000 fans in attendance for the D-backs game against the Giants on Sept. 24. The bobblehead will look very similar to Roberts himself, including an action pose and his well-liked tattoos.
In the online voting on dbacks.com, Roberts received the highest number of write-in votes from fans.
For Roberts, it’s an honor to have been voted in by the D-backs’ faithful.
“I want to say thank you to the fans for voting me the winner,” Roberts said. “It definitely means a lot to me. In this game, it is comforting to know you actually have people who recognize you and cheer for you. Winning a bobblehead solidifies the fact you actually have a fan base. I would also like to thank my teammates and coaches for helping me along the way. This honor is another of many memorable experiences I have had and hope to have as a D-back. I am definitely very appreciative.”
Receiving a bobblehead is just another highlight for Roberts this season. He has enjoyed a career year at the plate and has emerged as a mainstay in manager Kirk Gibson’s starting lineup. Through 55 games, he has set career highs in home runs with 10, stolen bases with nine and RBI with 27.
In addition to those impressive numbers, he is batting .257 with 48 hits, nine doubles and 35 runs.
By Greg Dillard
In 2011, the D-backs have proven time and time again that they can never be counted out in a ballgame. And as they’ve proven this season, it’s the execution of the little things that makes all the difference.
During the team’s surge to the top of the National League West, they have continually found ways to win with a new hero every single game.
In Wednesday night’s series finale against the Marlins, the D-backs pulled off another miraculous comeback to seal the 6-5 win and the series victory. It was the team’s third walk-off win of the season, and the D-backs now have a 16-3 record in their past 19 games.
“We just try to weather the storm, just stay calm about it, and don’t get too frustrated,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “When you get in games like that they can frustrate you.”
After the Marlins came back to tie the score at 5-5 in the top of the inning, it was time for the D-backs to rally once again.
Upton delivered the striking blow with a two-out, broken-bat single to left, but Willie Bloomquist and Ryan Roberts deserve a ton of credit for the way the game ended.
Bloomquist singled to start the inning. When Roberts was up with a 2-1 count and one out, Bloomquist took off running. Roberts made contact, chopping the ball to third. When third baseman Greg Dobbs fielded it and threw Roberts out, Bloomquist was able to advance to third, taking two bases on a ground out.
Upton’s hit then plated Bloomquist and sealed the walk-off win.
“We just kept battling,” Upton said. “Huddy gave up some runs early, but he kept us in it. He gave us a chance to battle back, and we just fought.”
Hernandez continues 8th inning excellence
After rallying to tie knot the score at 4-4 in the seventh, Gibson called on David Hernandez to pitch the eighth, as he has so many times this year. The right-hander did his job, and then some in his lone inning of work.
Hernandez fanned the first batter, Gaby Sanchez, to start the inning and then froze Gregg Dobbs on strike three. Mike Stanton then strode to the plate in need of just a double for the cycle. Instead, Hernandez struck out Stanton to fan the side and end the inning.
“I was feeling good,” Hernandez said. “It’s actually funny, Gibby came up to me yesterday during batting practice and was like ‘Hey we need to work on getting your pitch count down’. He told me he wanted to get down to about 15 an inning so it was 13 tonight so that’s a start.”
The D-backs returned home from the road Monday night, and greeted fans at Chase Field with a gem.
Behind Opening Day starter Ian Kennedy, the D-backs won 4-0 with home runs from Chris Young and Gerardo Parra. Justin Upton contributed a key double to center field, and made a tremendous diving catch in right.
But the star of the night was Kennedy, who pitched the first complete game shutout of his career, holding the Phillies to three hits while striking out 10 batters and not issuing a single walk. It was a brilliant, memorable performance in a ballpark that has seen the home team’s pitchers throw many brilliant games over the years.
Here are some images from photographer Jordan Megenhardt:
Ian Kennedy on the win:
Chris Young on the win:
Kirk Gibson on the win:
By Greg Salvatore
If you think you’ve never seen Ryan Roberts play quite this well before, you’re right.
In his first at bat in the top of the first inning of Tuesday’s game, Roberts took a first pitch ball, a knee-high 91-MPH fastball just outside. He took the next pitch for a ball, too, a thigh-high 91-MPH fastball.
Now in a nice hitter’s count, with a high likelihood of seeing another fastball, Roberts was able to gear up to drive one. He got a great pitch to hit, a knee-high fastball on the outer third of the plate that was travelling, you guessed it, 91 MPH.
Roberts deposited that fastball into the right-field stand at Great American Ballpark to give the D-backs an early lead, and extend his hit streak to six games. This stretch is tied for the longest in his career, matching a six gamer he had for the D-backs back in May of 2009.
In the fifth inning, he came to the plate with Kelly Johnson on second base and two outs, with the D-backs trailing by a run. It was an important RBI opportunity for Roberts, to get the game tied up in support of Armando Galarraga. In Roberts’ second at bat, back in the third inning, Reds pitcher Sam LeCure got him to swing on a fastball that was out of the strike zone. But LeCure didn’t execute the pitch as well this time.
He came with a 90-MPH fastball on the inner third of the plate, at knee high, on the same vertical plane as the ball he hit out in the first. With it being on the inner part, Roberts pulled this one and wound up with the second multi-homer game of his career as he gave the D-backs a 4-3 lead.
This has been a pretty absurd stretch for Roberts, who won a roster spot in part because Geoff Blum required a stint on the disabled list, and in part because Roberts had a torrid Spring Training, batting .509 with 27 hits in 29 games.
When Roberts had a good year for the D-backs in 2009, he did it largely because he took advantage of extreme platoon splits, posting a .325/.406/.547 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) against left-handed pitching, greatly outshining his .250/.343/.335 line against righties. His career splits aren’t as extreme, mostly because he struggled against left-handed pitching in 2010.
It’s worth noting then, while acknowledging that we’re dealing with extremely small sample sizes here, that Roberts’ early success in 2011 has been because he’s crushed right-handers to the tune of a .409/.480/.1.000 line. To succeed as this season goes on, Roberts is going to need to do some damage on good breaking balls, or at least be able to continue to work his way into good fastball counts. Also, in the early going, he’s making contact on balls out of the strike zone (76.5%) at a much higher rate than his career percentage (61.3%), which will normalize as he has more and more at bats.
Roberts is exactly the kind of guy people root for, because he plays hard and really treats the fans well. He certainly isn’t going to maintain this .382 average, few people besides Tony Gwynn can. But a successful season for Roberts isn’t winning a batting title, its continuing to take advantage of good hitting counts to make himself a valuable utility guy.
Here’s hoping that happens.
Photography: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The D-backs picked up their first series win of the season, taking two out of three against the defending NL Central Champs, the Cincinnati Reds.
With a full count and two outs, Chris Young hit a three-run, go-ahead home run off Reds reliever Nick Masset in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The D-backs trailed 5-1 early, but Stephen Drew got things going with a ground-rule double in the third, and then the team broke things open with a five-run sixth.
Ryan Roberts provided the big hit in that frame, launching a three-run homer to left-center field to cap off a five-run sixth inning that gave the D-backs their first lead of the game.
Roberts grabbed one of the final roster spots after staying red hot through Spring Training while fellow utility infielder Geoff Blum had an injury that necessitated a DL stint. Roberts has taken advantage of the opportunity, going deep twice and reaching base safely seven times in his first five games.
Hudson brilliant in first Chase Field start
On Saturday night, Daniel Hudson bounced back from a shaky first inning to hurl seven solid innings in his first home start of 2011.
“I battled (with) my command a little bit in the first inning,” Hudson said. “I was throwing a little bit too much across my body, left a couple pitches up, but other than that felt good.”
The Reds managed to put two runs on the board in the opening frame, but that’s all they would muster through the rest of his outing. Hudson cruised, allowing only one hit after the first inning. He set the Reds down in order in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings.
Hudson went out with a bang in the seventh, striking out Jonny Gomes, Jay Bruce and Ryan Hanigan.
“(I was) really getting locked in with my arm slot. Staying on top of the ball and driving down hill is the biggest adjustment I had to make,” Hudson said.
In his seven innings of work, Hudson scattered three hits, allowed just two runs, and struck out eight batters. He even lined a single to left field in a fifth inning at-bat, giving Hudson a three-game hitting streak.
Saturday’s outing was Hudson’s 13th consecutive quality start, which tied him with Brandon Webb and Randy Johnson for third place all time.
“He settled in nice,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “Seven innings, gave up three hits, walked a couple, but he got stronger as the game went on for sure. He certainly did his job.”
Branyan makes Chase Field debut
In the D-backs’ second home game of the season, newcomer Russell Branyan received the starting nod at first base on Saturday. It was his second start of the season, the other being against the Cubs on April 4.
The slugger won a roster spot after an outstanding Spring Training performance. That hot hitting has carried into the regular season as he raised his average to .444 with two more hits on Saturday.
Branyan flashed the leather in the opening inning when he corralled a Chris Young throw with the bases loaded and one out, then quickly gunned out Jonny Gomes at third base for the double play. In the ninth, Branyan hauled in a line drive off the bat of Drew Stubbs and stepped on first base to turn the unassisted double play.
In his second at-bat, Branyan rocketed a stand up double off the right field wall, his first of the season. Later in the eighth, Branyan smacked a 102 mph fastball from Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman into left field for a single.
“He’s tough,” Branyan said. “He’s a hard throwing lefty. You don’t see that many in the game.”
The streak continues for Montero
With his single to center field in the fourth inning Saturday night, Miguel Montero extended his season opening-hitting streak to seven games. Montero’s streak is the third-longest season opening streak in team history.
Montero is off to an incredible start to the season. He collected three hits in yesterday’s home opener, and is now hitting .500 this season. Montero got his first day off Sunday, with Henry Blanco drawing the start.
Willie Bloomquist has also strung together a hitting streak to start the season, hitting safely in seven straight games.