By Bob Hurst
The good feeling that comes from being in first place is something that the Arizona Diamondbacks don’t want to stray too far from this season.
After pounding Florida 15-4 on Monday night, the Diamondbacks remained in first in the NL West, a half-game in front of San Francisco.
“We’re hot, man, really hot,” said Arizona catcher Miguel Montero, who hit a three-run homer and matched his career high with five RBIs. “It’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully, we keep doing it. It’s a good feeling and we’ve got to keep it going until the last day of the season.”
That might be wishful thinking, but the way the Diamondbacks have been playing lately, anything’s possible. Arizona had won seven straight going into Tuesday’s game and 13 of its last 14 games.
Arizona exploded for 19 hits in Monday’s contest, two shy of the franchise record. Justin Upton went 5-for-5 with a two-run shot to the upper deck.
Second baseman Kelly Johnson hit two home runs and tied a team record with four extra-base hits.
Johnson was batting .429 in his last eight games and .327 with five homers and 16 RBIs in his last 13, helping Arizona overcome a 15-22 start to the season.
“This is a very confident team,” Johnson said. “A lot of momentum, a lot of just mojo, a lot of swagger. I mean, all of it, everything you’re looking for in a winning team.”
Winning isn’t something the Diamondbacks have seen a lot of in recent years. After going 82-80 in 2008, they went 70-92 in 2009 and 65-97 last season.
General Manager Kevin Towers, hired last fall after he won four division titles in 14 years as the GM in San Diego, made changes in the offseason, including signing free agent closer J.J. Putz.
Putz, who had 76 saves for Seattle in 2006-07, had not closed a game since 2008 and since having elbow surgery in 2009. But his save on Sunday at Houston extended his franchise record to 16 saves to begin a season.
And the starters have been getting stronger.
Right-hander Ian Kennedy went into Tuesday’s game on a hot streak of his own with three straight wins. He was 6-1 with a 3.01 ERA.
Joe Saunders has won two in a row after starting the year 0-5 and Josh Collmenter has been a welcome addition to the rotation with 15 straight scoreless innings to begin his career as a starter.
“Early in the year we were hitting, but we weren’t pitching,” D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “Then we were pitching, but we weren’t hitting and we were fumbling around and making mistakes on the bases. We are putting things together.”
The victory on Sunday completed a 6-1 road trip for Arizona, which looked forward to continuing its winning ways at home. Since winning their first series at Dodger Stadium since 2007 on May 15, the D-Backs have swept Atlanta, Minnesota and Houston, won three of four against Colorado and split with the Padres.
Just how long can they keep this going?
“We just need to remain humble,” Gibson said. “But we’ve got a long way to go and we talked about playing good baseball and it’s hard to sustain it. Our character will continue to be tested.”
Quotable: “They only remember the 2005 team (that won the World Series). In 2020 when we come here in a wheelchair, ‘Oh, yeah, thank you.’ As soon as you leave the ballpark, they don’t care about you anymore.” — Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on Twitter, taking aim at some Sox fans.
Diamond Notes: Toronto starter Jo-Jo Reyes won his first game in 29 starts on Monday, beating Cleveland 11-1. Reyes, who pitched the first complete game of his career, avoided the mark for consecutive starts without a win. He hadn’t won since June 13, 2008 with Atlanta. Reyes was tied at 28 straight starts without a win with Matt Keough, who set the record with the A’s in 1978-79…Joakim Soria is out as closer for the Royals, at least for now. He blew his fifth save in 12 chances in Monday’s loss to the Angels…Minnesota left-hander Francisco Liriano is on the disabled list with inflammation in his throwing shoulder…Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez got his 1,000th career hit in Sunday’s loss to Milwaukee…With his win over Washington on Monday, Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay won his 11th straight decision over the Expos/Nationals franchise…Mariners pitcher Doug Fister struck out a career-high nine batters in a win this week over the Orioles.
Copyright © 2011 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.