The offense continued to have its hitting shoes on in both halves of today's double-header. In Surprise, Justin Upton had a massive three-run blast to put the Diamondbacks ahead to stay, and Rusty Ryal sent an opposite-field shot into the Rangers bullpen, as the Diamondbacks notched sixteen hits, and rolled easily past Texas by the margin of 9-3. Down in Hermosillo, thirteen more hits came off the Arizona bats, and a team that started only three regulars beat the Rockies 8-7. How is that "reign of terror" thing working out for you, Rox fans?
Our Cactus League record is now a decent 7-5, with the unbeaten spring streak casually extending itself to seven games - hopefully, that'll shut the nattering nabobs of negativity up for a bit. Box-scores after the jump - and, boy, fitting those onto the page was an interesting exercise in HTML, let me tell you. Details of the wins are also up.
I was sporadically following both games today: partly due to circumstance (we were scoping out potential locations for SnakePit Towers v2.0), partly due to the sporadic nature of the updates from the Hermosillo game. There were a few occasions late on where I was frantically hitting refresh on the Gameday, because from past experience, I knew that a long delay in updates usually meant a big inning. It also looked like Leo Rosales had surrendered a game-tying home-run with two outs in the ninth, but seconds later, the game ended with the scorer having apparently found an extra run for the Diamondbacks down the back of el sofa. Safe to call that victory unexpected.
Looks like we wheeled out a few of our Hispanic players in Mexico, with starts for Augie Ojeda, Tony Abreu, Gerardo Parra and Carlos Corporan, and Rodrigo Lopez taking the mound. His outing was nothing particularly special, allowing five hits and a walk in three innings, striking out three with two earned runs. TJ Beam and Wes Roemer each surrendered their first runs of spring, each giving up a couple of hits. However, Jordan Norberto and Matt Torra pitched perfect innings, the former getting the W. Josh Ellis and Leo Rosales returned to the "two hits per inning" standard for the eighth and ninth, on what was not the best of days overall for our pitchers.
Fortunately, the offense was up to the task, coming back from 5-2 down by posting crooked numbers in the fifth, sixth and seventh frames. Adam LaRoche led the charge with seven total bases, going 3-for-3 with a home-run and a double, driving in a pair. Tony Abreu had a pair of hits and two RBI, while Cole Gillespie went 2-for-4. Conor Jackson got Arizona on the board in the first, with a two-out solo homer. He has now hit more long balls in 21 Cactus League at-bats than he had in 310 major-league ABs, going back to July 28, 2008. Here's to this not being a spring mirage.
The fundamentals didn't look too good south of the border. Arizona made three errors, one each by Mark Reynolds, TJ Beam and Sean Coughlin - that was Special K's first one of spring though, which is not a bad rate. We also saw Abreu and LaRoche caught trying to steal second, Abreu picked off first, and this intriguing line from the Colorado side of the boxscore: "Outfield assists: Spilborghs (Ojeda, A at 1st base)." Not quite sure what that was about, but it certainly doesn't sound good.
While driving about this afternoon, I did catch some of the game in Surprise on the radio, where we overcame a two-run shot by Josh Hamilton in the first. Again, we put up multiple runs in three consecutive innings: that's definitely the sort of thing we want to see, as that's the sort of thing which indicates a line-up capable of scoring from top to bottom. The radio guys were in awe of Upton's three-run shot, which seemed like a complete no-doubter from the moment it left his bat, going by what they were saying. That gave us a 5-2 lead and Ryal's two-run shot the next time up extended our advantage. Apparently, it's 350 ft. down the lines in Surprise, so it wasn't a cheap shot either.
Upton finished the day with three hits and three RBI, giving him a Cactus League best 13 for the spring - no-one else in the state has more than eight. Again, this signifies not only that we are getting men on base, but they're being driven in - six different batters had RBI this afternoon. Stephen Drew, Ryan Roberts, Chris Snyder and Chris Young each had a pair of hits (Young is up above .300 in spring), while Miguel Montero walked and legged out a triple. As a result of all the offense today, the team line is up to .304/.373/.519, the third-best OPS in the NL. I know it's only spring training, but I just get a sense this team will not be 13th in the league in OPS+ again.
On the pitching front, after the two-run homer in the opening frame, Billy Buckner seemed to get into a good groove according to the radio guys. There was no more damage over the rest of his four innings, in which he scattered three hits and two walks, striking out three - he did uncork a couple of wild-pitches, however. Good to see Aaron Heilman throwing better, with a perfect fifth; it was mostly the C-bullpen thereafter, at least until the ninth, when Esmerling Vasquez came in and struck out the Rangers to put an exclamation point on the victory.
"I thought he worked out very well the other day. What people don't understand is that he's healthy now. He told me he hasn't felt this good since Clemson. When he was throwing the other day it was like watching the kid I saw at Clemson. He's very excited."
Of course, the person talking about Kris Benson is Kris Benson's agent, so take the above with a huge pinch of salt. But it seems Benson would be happy with a minor-league deal, and with some of our #6 starter candidates not exactly setting the Cactus League on fire, we could do worse than lobbing him a cheapie contract and adding him to the mix. That's if... No, make that if Benson is healthy, throwing close to 90 mph as his agent says, and all the other things we want from a starter. It would solve all my illustrative issues for the rest of the season too...
Fox Sports Arizona has an interview with Chris Snyder, in which he reflects on his 'lost season' in 2009. "When you have your health and everyday just kind of ties into the next, you just go with the flow. You take a lot of things for granted. Take something away from you that is your livelihood, something you’ve done your whole life, something you have worked hard your whole life to get to do, you take that way, it’s a reality check." He seems surprisingly excited by the prospect of competing for playing-time with Montero, but I imagine he has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Thus far, he is outhitting Montero in spring training, so we'll see how they drive each other in the regular season.