Throughout the course of the season, manager Kirk Gibson will juggle his line-up.
That’s a given, and Gibson is the first to admit. The D-backs skipper seems fond of keeping his line-up a secret, but indicates, from time to time, that his eventual goal is to play as many players a possible.
Before the season opener Friday, Gibson has a few surprises regarding his batting order. In creating a lineup which Aaron Hill was lowered from his usual second spot to the eight hole, Gibson said this was accomplished for greater bat control lower in the lineup.
Since his arrival from Toronto for last season’s stretch drive, Hill fit comfortably into the number two hole, and his contribution to last year’s NL West title was clearly measurable.
On Opening Day, Hill responded to the eighth spot in the batting order with a disastrous 0-for-4, and struck out twice.
For game two of the season, Gibson put Hill back in his familiar two hole, and the 30 year-old native of Visalia, Calif. responded by smacking a pair of home runs in his first two times against Madison Bumgarner. That effort carried the Diamondbacks 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants before 34,789 Saturday afternoon in Chase Field.
“(Bumgarner’s) a good pitcher, but you do your homework and watch for something you can drive,” Hill said. “The key is to be prepared, look for the ball in the zone and get something you can drive.”
This was the fourth time in Hill’s career he’s hit two home runs in one game. The last time was August 7, 2010 with Toronto against the Tampa Bay Rays.
During the game, shortstop John McDonald turned to manager Kirk Gibson, and the way Gibson tells this, McDonald said the way to upset Hill is to bat him eighth. Back in the two hole for Saturday’s game, Hill ripped two bombs in his two times at the plate.
“No one really cares where they hit here,” Hill smiled. “No egos in this clubhouse. There’s no question I feel more comfortable at top of the lineup. I’ve hit there for most of my career.”
Despite an early 4-0 lead, Daniel Hudson survived a pair of two run bombs to record his first win of the season. Pablo Sandoval crushed a two run job into the right field bleachers in the fourth and Brett Pill took Hudson into the left-field bleachers with two out in the seventh for his first pinch-hit home run with one aboard.
That left the Diamondbacks hanging to a one run game and the bullpen of David Hernandez and J. J. Putz then slammed the door on the Giants.
“I felt okay but there were a couple of things I did not very well,” Hudson said afterward. “We had an early lead, and when that happens, you want to pound the zone and get outs. We did let them back in the game, but the bullpen locked it down.”
That makes identical 5-4 victories for the first two games, and a familiar pattern.
Gibson managed to get starters Ian Kennedy on Friday and Hudson on Saturday into the seventh inning. From spot relievers Joe Paterson, in game one, and Bryan Shaw in game two, as Gibson said “cleaned things up.”
From there, Hernandez, in the eighth, and closer Putz shut the Giants down in the final two innings.
Clearly, this was an effective blueprint and use of personnel last season, and continues here at the start of the 2012 season.
D-BACKS HAVE HIS NUMBER
After the Diamondbacks defeated Tim Lincecum on Opening Day, the victory was the fourth straight, in the last two seasons, by Arizona over the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Though Lincecum made his 19th career start against the Diamondbacks Friday, recent outings have been less than productive.
Dating back over the past two years, Lincecum has beaten the Diamondbacks only twice since May 20, 2010 in 10 starts, including the 2012 Opening Day.
Both of these victories came in September, 2010 and that was in the middle of the Giants effort to clinch the National League West Division.
Since Lincecum’s last win over Arizona on Sept. 29. 2010, the Diamondbacks have won the four in a row and another start, May 10, 2011, ended in a no-decision.
In speaking with reporters prior to Saturday’s game, Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy said he had no explanation relative to the Diamondbacks recent success over Lincecum.
“It’s hard to explain,” Bochy said. “It’s one of those things, and I don’t know why. On the other side, we’ve had trouble with Kennedy.”
Asked about Diamondbacks’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt’s personal success (three home runs in first 10 at bats, including a first inning blast on Opening Day) against Lincecum, Botchy forced a weak smile and simply shook is head.
SEEING MORE OF PARRA
In the seventh inning of Opening Day, Gibson made a defensive move, and inserted Gerardo Parra in left field.
In meeting the media prior to Saturday‘s game, Gibson indicated this may be a regular course of action.
Plus, left-fielder Jason Kubel sustained a slight quad pull in spring training, and though Gibson said the injury is not curtailing Kubel’s activity, there is no hesitation to use Parra at any time.
“I spoke with Jason in spring training about late, defensive changes, and he had no problem with this,” Gibson said. “(Kubel) said whatever is good for the team is fine with him.”
By inserting Parra, a 2011 Golden Glove award winner, Gibson simply added, “it makes sense to put him out there.”
In Saturday’s game, Gibson again inserted Parra on a double switch in the eighth inning. Hitting in the nine spot in place of the pitcher, Parra flied to center but gives the Diamondbacks a dynamic, defensive force late in games.