While the baseball season is just one-third through to conclusion, Diamondbacks’ shortstop Chris Owings continues to build a case for post-season honors.
After bulldozing his way through the Pacific Coast League last year as rookie-of-the-year and MVP, Owings beat out Didi Gregorius for the everyday job at shortstop and continued where he left off the Aces.
A leader in numerous offensive categories among National League rookies, Owings put another signature stamp on a triumphant season when he singled in two in a productive seventh inning Sunday and the Diamondbacks went on to defeat the Atlanta Braves, 6-5 before 26,534 in Chase Field.
The victory enabled the D-backs to capture the weekend set from the Braves and Arizona won only its third home series of the season.
Owings’ sharp single to left snapped a 2-2 tie and scored pinch runners Ender Inciarte and Bronson Arroyo to give the D-backs the lead. With Owings on first, Paul Goldschmidt then followed with his 12th homer of the season and the D-backs broke out to a four-run lead after seven innings.
“I just wanted to build on previous at-bats,” Owings said afterward. “They brought in a righty (David Hale) and he came with a fast ball. I got the barrel of the bat out there and hit pretty good.”
Owings’ single gave the Diamondbacks the lead for good and Goldschmidt’s home run to right center field turned out to be the game-winner in an eventual one-run decision.
Relievers Joe Thatcher, Evan Marshall and Brad Ziegler almost blew a four run lead but managed to preserve the victory and stretch the D-backs’ winning streak to a modest two games. In the process, Ziegler recorded his first save of the season and he had 13 saves last season.
The victory also provided starter Chase Anderson his fifth consecutive win in as many starts. Anderson now becomes the third pitcher since 1998 to start a major league career with five straight victories.
“I just want to give my team a chance to win,” Anderson said. “I thought I had good fast ball command (Sunday) and that was important for me. The key was making good pitches and the offense picked me up, too.”
Since his recall from Triple A Reno on May 6, the Diamondbacks continue to get quality starts from Anderson
For his effort against the Braves Sunday, Anderson turned in his fourth “quality start” in his five to date. The only game in which Anderson was marginal was an 18-7 win over the Dodgers on May 17 in which he went 5 1/3 innings and allowed seven hits and five runs. In that one, Anderson was credited with the win and his subsequent three starts, he’s allowed a total of four earned runs.
Against the Braves, Anderson allowed only five hits in seven innings of work and the only blemish was a two-run homer off the bat of former D-back Justin Upton in the sixth. Anderson also recorded a career-high eight strikeouts.
“The book on Upton is to keep it away from him,” Anderson added. “The pitch he hit out was a sinker in and he got it.”
If Anderson was doing his job on the mound, outfielder David Peralta continues to swing a hot bat. His two-run homer in the seventh created the 2-2 tie and ended up with a 2-for-4 afternoon. In seven games to date, Peralta is hitting .429 (12-for-28) with four extra base hits.
“I’m just trying to put a good swing on the ball,” he said. “Right now, I feel comfortable and at ease at the plate.”
At his point, it may be difficult for manager Kirk Gibson to take Peralta and his hot stick out of the line-up. Then again, the Diamondbacks face two Houston right-handers to conclude the present home stand on Monday and Tuesday and Peralta will likely be back in the line-up.
THE HOME STAND CONTINUES
The Houston Astros now move in for a short, two-game series.
On Monday night, the D-backs send Josh Collmenter (4-2, 3.63 ERA) to the hill against right-hander Jarred Cosart (4-5, 4.16).
On Tuesday afternoon (12:40 p.m. start) Bronson Arroyo (5-4, 4.50) opposes righty Brad Peacock (2-4, 4.82). Both Cosart and Peacock are making their first career start against the D-backs.
Astros’ centerfielder Dexter Fowler has the only substantial history against Arizona pitchers. As member of the Colorado Rockies, Fowler saw the Diamondbacks on numerous occasions in the National League West Division, is hitting lifetime .176 (3-for-17) against Collmenter and .143 (2-for-14) lifetime against Arroyo.
Then, it’s off to Houston for two and three this weekend against the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium. Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw started Sunday against the Rockies and based on his normal turn in the rotation, he will open the series Friday night against the Diamondbacks and Anderson.