Posted on 01 September 2011.
PHOENIX Justin Upton was hit again Wednesday, and once again the Diamondbacks hit back.
Two pitches after Upton was drilled in the left shoulder in the first inning, Miguel Montero hit a three-run home run that stood up in the D-backs’ 4-2 victory over Colorado. It was the 16th time Upton has been hit this season; Montero’s three-run homer was his second in as many games.
“I guess we should like it when people get hit,” manager Kirk Gibson said.
Those were not the only trends reinforced when the D-backs recorded their ninth straight victory and their franchise-record 12th straight at Chase Field, in what soon may become a hair-razing streak.
The last time the D-backs were in San Francisco, team presidentCEO Derrick Hall and general manager Kevin Towers pledged to shave their heads if the D-backs put together a 10-game winning streak. They had won four in a row at the time, and the promise seemed moot when the Giants won the final game of that series Aug. 3. But now …
“I hate even talking about it, yet we’re in a position to make that happen,” said manager Kirk Gibson, adding that he has a barber in mind.
“It’s what you do. You make sacrifices.”
The D-backs are that position because of the brand of ball they have played while building the streak, which tied for the second-longest winning streak in franchise history behind a 12-gamer in 2003.
In finishing a 6-0 homestand, the D-backs had another strong start, more run-saving defense and a hit when it mattered most.
It is the way you make the postseason and the way you win in the postsesaon, and it is the way the D-backs have been able to keep defending World Series champion San Francisco at arm’s length in the NL West race the last 10 days.
The D-backs (78-59) have a six-game lead over the Giants as they prepare for their last visit to AT&T Park this season for a three-game weekend series in San Francisco. Each team has 25 games remaining.
While the Giants responded to their recent slump by designating veterans Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada for assignment and activating Pat Burrell for the series, the D-backs will try to take their momentum forward.
“We’re playing good baseball, that’s the bottom line. It’s fun to be a part of,” closer J.J. Putz said after getting his 35th save of the season by striking out Troy Tulowitzki with the tying run on first base in the ninth inning.
“We’re not just doing it in one aspect of the game. We’re doing all the little things right. Taking extra bases. Putting pressure on the defense. The most impressive thing over the last couple of weeks is how guys really haven’t gotten too caught up in what’s going on. They are still showing up at the field ready to work, not being complacent.
“We’ve been on a nice little roll. We have some tough games ahead of us, that’s for damn sure. The Giants are going to give us everything they got. It’s going to be an exciting series. It’s going to be a close series. We just have to go in there and do whatever we can to get a couple of games over there.”
Collmenter gave up two runs in six innings before turning it over to a rested bullpen, extending the starting pitchers’ dominance that began when Ian Kennedy threw seven shutout innings in a 2-0 victory over Washington on Aug. 23 that broke a six-game losing streak.
The D-backs’ starters have a 1.05 ERA in the last nine games, and they have not given up more than two runs in a game. The starters have allowed only 64 base runners in 60 innings, a ratio that keeps an opponent from bunching up.
Timely defense helps, and Collmenter benefitted by a defense that is making as many plays as it has all season. If it is not Chris Young streaking to center field fence to take an extra-base hit away or John McDonald saving a run with a 360-degree pirouette, it is Justin Upton running into the right field fence to make a catch.
Left fielder Gerardo Parra, whose confidence seems to be at a career-high, set the tone early when he threw out Dexter Fowler at home plate as he attempted to score from third base on a fly ball to medium-deep left field to end the first inning. Parra, who also had an assist when a runner was thrown out at second base, is tied for the NL lead in 10 assists. Five have come against the Rockies.
“Guys were yelling from our dugout to Dexter at third, Don’t do it,”‘ Putz said.
Second baseman Aaron Hill, added to help bolster the infield defense, saved a run with a reaction stop on Todd Helton’s hard one-hopper with a runner on second base and one out in the fourth. Collmenter (9-8) got the next batter on a more routine grounder to second.
“Big, big plays,” Gibson said. “That makes you pitching a lot better.”
NOTES: Infielder Geoff Blum and left-hander Alberto Castillo are expected to be activated from the disabled list Sept. 2, the day after major league rosters can expand to include all players on the 40-man roster. Blum has missed the last five weeks with a fractured right pinkie and Castillo has been out a month because of shoulder tendinitis. “Initially it will be some pitching and a catcher,” Gibson said. Konrad Schmidt is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster, although the D-backs do have a little room to maneuver because they are at 39 after designating Cody Ransom for assignment. The D-backs recorded the fifth sweep of a six-game homestand in franchise history in beating San Diego and Colorado, the first since 2003. The others were in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Montero has hit safely in 10 straight games, tying a career high.
Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter