SAN DIEGO - If the Diamondbacks are going to pick themselves off the mat and turn competitive, the starting pitching must be in the forefront.
Through the opening month, that has not been the case and starters have rarely lasted beyond the fifth and sixth inning.
Turning in back-to-back strong starts, Bronson Arroyo could now be in the driver’s seat. After six strong innings April 26 against the Phillies, Arroyo turned in seven innings of shut-out baseball Friday night and the Diamondbacks came away with 2-0 victory over the San Diego Padres before 27,032 in Petco Park.
The shutout was the first by the Diamondbacks since a 7-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays last July 31. The win was also the 300th for Kirk Gibson as the Diamondbacks’ manager. That puts him third for Arizona career wins behind Bob Melvin (337) and Bob Brenly (303).
The win stretched the Diamondbacks’ modest winning streak to two but, more importantly, Arroyo gave the team “a quality start” and chance to stay in the contest. For his effort, Arroyo went seven solid innings, his longest of the season, scattered three shits, walked one and recorded a season-high six strikeouts.
With a modest fast ball in the upper 80s, Arroyo’s touch is spotting his pitches and that was the key to the win over San Diego.
“I’m not a dominant pitcher so I have to keep reinventing myself,” Arroyo said. “I depend on movement and command to be successful and keep hitters off-balance.”
Arroyo started and ended brilliantly.
Facing the minimum 13 hitters through 4.1 innings, Arroyo allowed no hits until Yonder Alonso lined a 3-1 pitch into right field with one out in the fifth. Alonso was the first hitter in which Arroyo fell behind at 2-0 and then at 3-1. Arroyo managed to get out of the inning when Alexi Amarista grounded into a force play and Jace Peterson grounded to first.
Previously, Everth Cabrera led off the game, bounced the mound but Arroyo could not handle the ball and ruled an error. After Will Venable flied to left, Seth Smith grounded into a double play to end the inning. That was the only base runner until Alonso’s single in the fifth.
“Teams like to stack left-handed hitters against me, so I have to keep them off-guard,” Arroyo added. “I usually get stronger in the second half (of the season) and after missing most of spring training, I’m starting to feel stronger. I tend to lose a lot of weight so for me to keep up my strength, I need a lot of work. I’m starting to get that now.”
Meanwhile, Arroyo received early support and that it held up. That’s when Aaron Hill singled in two with the bases loaded and two out in the third and a quick 2-0 D-backs lead.
If the last two efforts are any indication, the Diamondbacks may have found their stopper.
“(Arroyo) is trending to throw better each time out,” said manager Kirk Gibson. “He kept the ball down and that was effective for him.”
Arroyo was slow to join the rotation. Signed as free agent on Feb. 12, three days after the Diamondbacks officially opened spring training, Arroyo was diagnosed, following an MRI on March 5, with a bulging disk. After receiving an epidural, the set back cost Arroyo valuable time.
To accelerate his value in the rotation, Arroyo started in the rotation and dropped an 8-5 decision to the Giants in his first start on April 5.
In his five starts prior to opening the current series with the Padres, Arroyo turned in a quality start in beating the Giants at AT&T Park on April 9 and last Sunday against the Phillies in Chase Field. Since April 9, he’s dropped two and had a no-decision against the Phillies until Friday night.
Now, he easily turned his best performance in Sedona Red.
“This is really the third full week of work (for Arroyo),” Gibson added. “He is settling into the routine for a pitcher and he knows how to pitch.”
ANOTHER ROSTER MOVE
On Friday, the Diamondbacks recalled outfielder Alfredo Marte from triple A Reno and sent outfielder Tony Campana down to the Aces.
Marte started the 2013 season with Arizona and in 22 games, the native of Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic hit .196 (8-for-43). In 23 games at the major league level, Campana hit .160 (8-for-50) and four stolen bases.
“Tony’s been struggling at the plate and we sent him down to play centerfield every day,” said manager Kirk Gibson prior to Friday night’s game with the Padres. “Marte has been swinging a good bat down there and is a very good, consistent hitter.”
With the Aces, Marte was hitting .342 (27-for-79) with five doubles, one triple, home run and 11 RBIs in 26 games.
After a slow start last season and an equally sluggish beginning this season, third baseman Martin Prado has began to pick himself off the mat.
In his last six games prior to Friday night, Prado was hitting .400 and that’s 8-for-20 in this stretch. Coming into Friday’s series opener against the Padres, Prado was hitting .263 but contributed with a huge hit in Wednesday’s come-from-behind win over the Rockies.
With A. J. Pollock on third and Chris Owings with two out, Gerardo Parra was hit by pitch to load the bases. Prado then delivered a two-run single up the middle to knot the contest at 4-4 and Miguel Montero closed out the affair with a walk-off home run to lead off the 10th inning.
“(Prado) has put a lot of pressure on himself lately and I sat him down,” manager Kirk Gibson said before Friday’s game with the Padres. “We told him to stay relaxed, not to worry so much and play the game naturally. He’ll get back on track.”
On Friday night, Prado was back in the line-up and hitting second against San Diego right-hander Andrew Cashner.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt set a franchise record for the most hits in March/April with 40. Orlando Hudson previously held the mark with 37 in 2007.
Goldschmidt’s 40 hits were the most in April by a National League player in three years. In 2011, Andre Ethier of the Dodgers and Placido Polanco of the Phillies each had 41 hits in April. In 2011, Starlin Castro of the Cubs had 40 hits in the moth of April.
Coming into the San Diego series, Goldschmidt was hitting .323, (40-124), four home runs and 18 RBIs.
For April, the Diamondbacks announced players-of-the-month.
Advanced A Visalia third baseman Brandon Drury hit .296 (32-for-108) for the Rawhide with 10 doubles, six home runs and drove in 25 runs was the organization’s position player-of the-month.
Double A Mobile right-hander Chase Anderson was 3-2 (five starts) and posted a .085 ERA to earn pitcher-of-the-month from the organization.