Sorry this is somewhat delayed - just spent an hour or two trawling to get a London hotel for next Tuesday! Regardless, it was a nice way for the Diamondbacks to end their Cactus League experience this afternoon, taking both ends of a split-squad series, with wins over both Kansas City and Milwaukee. The former was a particularly large helping of redemption, given they'd pounded us for 24 runs last time we met. Aaron Heilman, who allowed seven hits in one inning on that occasion, was probably especially-happy to post a zero today.
The wins leave the Diamondbacks with a Cactus League record of 14-16 [I believe the two games tomorrow at Chase against the Cubs are not included in the standings?]; not brilliant, but if we'd lost both ends today, that would have dropped us to 12-18. I like this way rather better. Details of the twin killing after the jump.
In Surprise, the Diamondbacks defeated the Royals, 4-3, with Leo Rosales picking up the W, for the single pitch he threw to end the sixth inning. This is the kind of performance I look forward to seeing from my fantasy relievers in the coming season. Rosales vultured up the decision, because in the top half of the seventh, the offense scored a couple of runs, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead. Bob Howry, Aaron Heilman and Jason Urquidez took it from there, allowing one hit over the final three innings - as noted yesterday, good to see Howry and Heilman apparently hitting their stride as we end spring.
Edwin Jackson was the starter for Arizona, and somewhat wobbled his way through 5.2 innings, scattering five hits, four walks, three earned runs, two strikeouts and a partridge in a pear tree over the course of his afternoon's work. He threw 96 pitches, 52 of them for strikes, 44 for balls - not exactly hitting his spots, it would appear, and it seemed more a case of him working through a day without his best stuff, but that happens to every pitcher now and again [or, in the case of Russ Ortiz, again and again...] Still, having racked up nine consecutive scoreless innings up until the Royals' fourth, can't complain too much. Here are his post-game comments.
Today is the best I've felt all spring as far as mechanics and throwing pitches in different situations. I was throwing off-speed in different counts and getting command of all four pitches. It went well. I got a little tired, but I guess that's normal, but 96 pitches, we've come a long ways as far as pitching counts. From here on, everything counts. It's time to go. Spring training, everything you've been working on with all the hard work is about to be put into play with the regular season right around the corner.
Offensively, the Diamondbacks got on top in the top of the fourth, with RBI singles by Sean Coughlin and Collin Cowgill. We should probably have got more than that, as we still had the bases loaded with only one man out, but Drew Macias hit into an inning-ending double play. The other big blow was a two-run blast to center by Gerardo Parra in the seventh, which proved to be the game-winning hit. Jeff Bailey had three hits and our only walk, leaving him with an OPS of 1.204 for spring, but he's still going to start the year down in Reno.
Meanwhile, at Maryvale, the lumber was broken out, as we rolled to a 12-3 victory over the Brewers - over our two spring-training contests against Milwaukee, we've outscored them by a total of 21-4. The Diamondbacks swatted four homers, though one suspects the breeze, listed as "14 mph, Out to CF" probably helped. It was so windy... ["How windy was it?" roars the crowd] It was so windy...that Craig Counsell hit a home-run. That's a man who has a grand total of eight in his 362 games for the Brewers, over the past three seasons. Or, as Mark Reynolds would call it, "a good month."
Certainly, no shortage of activity on the base-paths for the Diamondbacks here. Thanks to Greg Salvatore for his explanation of an abnormal "double-steal" by Arizona in the fifth. With Stephen Drew and Justin Upton on the corners, there was "a pickoff attempt to first, Counsell threw home to try to get Drew, but threw wide as Drew slid into home and Upton into second for a double-steal." Not so good for Ryan Roberts, who was caught stealing second and picked-off first - he did get two hits and an RBI, raising his spring average to .170.
Still, the AP report reckons "Rusty Ryal probably moved ahead of Ryan Roberts for the Diamondbacks' final bench spot, finishing 3 for 3 with a double and four RBIs." In terms of on-base percentage, there isn't that much between the two - Ryal is at .309, Roberts .267. But in an almost identical number of at-bats, Ryal has ten extra-base hits, including four homers; Roberts' numbers are four and one respectively. The net result is that Ryal handily wins the slugging percentage battle between our rated-R superstars, .635 to .283. Is that significant enough to give Ryal, largely an unknown quantity in the majors, the edge? We'll find out over the weekend.
AJ Hinch told Steve Gilbert, "It's a pretty heated battle there for the position players. Nobody is going to give on this one. We'll just have to pull the trigger and make a decision." And Ryal said, "It's one of those things where you have no control over your situation you just have to do what you do and stay positive... I've put a lot of hard work in this spring extra that people don't see. To be real honest with you I feel like I've done all that I can do as far as off the field stuff. My performance, it's an opinion, it's a decision they have to make. Today's a positive, mark it down as a positive and go from there."
Here's Ian Kennedy on his performance, again through Greg Salvatore. "Good outing (getting ready for) the regular season. Just trying to build off the last one and try to do it again in the regular season, trying to build off of this one." Kennedy said he was working on: "Being efficient, just get ahead of guys. Even when I'm behind guys, just going after them and getting even in the count, not giving up. Just having quick innings that save you for when you have a long one." Sounds like he is "just" about ready for the meaningful games to start. He worked 5.2 innings, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk:
It was mostly a day for the offense to step forward, even outside of Ryal. Chris Young reached base twice in the lead-off spot, with a solo home-run in the third and a walk. That came two innings after Justin Upton and Mark Reynolds had left the yard, back-to-back: that was Upton's sixth of the spring, driving in his twentieth, and he added another hit and a walk. There was another hit for Reynolds too, while Stephen Drew joined Roberts in the two-hit club. Even Kennedy got in on the action, with a double in the sixth.
That will do for now - there is some (real!) news on the Webb front, but this has already been delayed enough, so I'll get it posted a little later. Quick heads-up for tomorrow. Nick Piecoro will be chatting with readers on the Republic site tomorrow, from 1-2 pm. Brave man. Please step over there, and help give him a break from the trolls which usually infect any baseball story there. The man needs us. :-)