Better, but not quite good enough.
With struggling in spring training and a forgettable start against the Dodgers in Australia, Diamondbacks’ right-hander Trevor Cahill picked himself off the mat Tuesday night.
While losing his second straight start to open the season, Cahill turned in perhaps his best effort of 2014 combined but lost to the San Francisco Giants 2-0 before 19,357 in Chase Field.
The Diamondbacks were shut out for the first time since last Sept. 28 by Dan Haren and Washington by a score of 2-0.
Despite pitching behind hitters early in the game, Cahill kept the Giants at bay. Holding San Francisco scoreless until the fifth, he surrendered single runs in the fifth and sixth and was pulled for a pinch hitter after six frames.
The effort was stronger than Cahill’s first start of the season, a 7-5 defeat to L. A. March 23 in Sydney.
In that game, Cahill lasted only four innings, surrendered eight hits and five runs.
On Tuesday, Cahill was better and his numbers improved. In six innings of work against the Giants, Cahill allowed four hits, two runs and walked three. One walk led to the Giants first run and two hits in the sixth help provide the second run.
“The difference between this game and the last start was not tying to be too fine,” Cahill said. “The coaches said just relax, don’t put pressure on yourself and think of the game as a bullpen session. I tend to be perfect with my pitches and that gets me in trouble, especially the walks.”
Diamondbacks’ manger Kirk Gibson also saw the change.
“(Cahill) kept the ball down and he controlled the (strike) zone,” Gibson said. “But, walks did cost him. In a tight game, you can’t make mistakes and he’ll learn from that.”
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks could not solve Tim Hudson, the Giants starter.
Making his first start since fracturing his right ankle last July 24, Hudson was effective and efficient. The 37 year-old native of Columbus, Ga. held the Diamondbacks to just four base runners. Gerardo Parra represented two runners when he singled in the fourth and doubled in the sixth.
Paul Goldschmidt extended his hitting streak to 24 games with a seventh inning double and Cliff Pennington was the other base runner. Leading off the eighth inning, Pennington reached first on an error by Giants’ second baseman Ehire Adrianza.
“Tip your hat to (Hudson), he was good,” said second baseman Aaron Hill. “He didn’t give us a good pitch to hit and just made his pitches.”
A NEW BEGINNING
Diamondbacks’ catcher Miguel Montero is quick to forget the 2013 season.
On the disabled list from July 29 to Aug. 26 with a strained lower back, Montero aggravated his injury with a poor season at the plate. In 116 games, the 30 year-old native of Caracas, Venezuela hit .230 and that represented the lowest in his six year major league career.
After an off-season of thought, reflection and rehabilitation, Montero is ready to turn the page.
Off to solid start, he was hitting .357 through the opening four games and swinging the bat better than most of last season.
“Last year was tough,” Montero admitted. “You want to be positive and make things happen. I think I put more pressure on myself, but you also learn from your mistakes.”
This spring, Montero first concentrated on defense and then, after several discussions with D-backs; hitting coach Turner Ward, the offense was addressed.
“At the start of spring training, we threw a lot at (Montero),” acknowledged manager Kirk Gibson. “We hit him hard and made defense a primary focus. Then, Turner spoke with him and now he’s ready to move on.”
The results for 2014 so far are positive.
“I need to stay strong, mentally,” Montero added. “For me, that’s more important than anything else.”
While results in the standings were not acceptable to the Diamondbacks, the recent trip to Australia to open the season against the Los Angles Dodgers was considered successful.
That’s the observation of D-backs’ reliever Ryan Rowland-Smith, a native of Sydney, and one happy countryman.
Rowland-Smith’s energy for baseball and passion for his country were clearly evident during his interview sessions at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Now nearly two weeks removed, his reflection represents an eye into reaction from both the Australian sports fan and the Australian media.
“After the Saturday game, I was waiting for a cab and overheard fans talking baseball,” he said Wednesday afternoon in the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse. “They were talking about the game, situations which came up and how impressed they were with (Dodgers’ starter Clayton) Kershaw. It was great to hear that.”
Following the Dodgers-Diamondbacks experience, there is concerted effort to push baseball into the Australian sports landscape. Spearheaded by former major leaguers who reside in Australia, the endeavor addresses youth participation and promotion.
That might be difficult because of the overwhelming popularity for Australian football, rugby and cricket. Still, Rowland-Smith and others hope for attention from the media to get their message across.
“There is also a big difference in player accessibility,” Rowland-Smith added. “With baseball in America, the media has access to players and can help promote the game through stories and features. In Australia, the media is limited to whom they can speak. Usually, the captain and one player is available so teams can take learn from the way media has access to players in American baseball.”