Shortstop Chris Owings blasted a pair of homers and now tied for the club lead in RBIs.
During spring training, manager Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks told listeners the shortstop job is open to competition. No one player had an edge, and Lovullo said the decision who plays will be dictated by the players themselves. In effect, he pointed out that the starter will be driven by their play and character.
As days of the season approached, Lovullo anointed Chris Owings as his starting shortstop and the skipper took Owings’ bat over Nick Ahmed’s glove. Through the opening weeks of the season, Lovullo has not regretted the decision. Owings broke out of the gate in style and delivered his first career, walk off single in the Diamondbacks’ opening day win over the San Francisco Giants.
Owings has not wavered much from his opening day heroics. Coming into Thursday’s game at home against the San Diego Padres, Owings hit .353 in his previous five games, and continued with that torrid stick. His second inning homer tied the game against the Padres and another solo shot in the fourth help carry the Diamondbacks to a 6-2 victory over the San Diego Padres before 15,452 in Chase Field.
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The win vaulted the Diamondbacks over the Colorado Rockies and into first place in the National League West Division. These two teams meet this weekend in a three-game series in Chase Field.
For now, Owings is hitting .325 and his bat is a principal reason Arizona is off to a 15-9 start. His 19 RBIs now ties Jake Lamb for the team leading and Owings has 12 RBIs in his last six games. Speaking with Venom Strikes after his initial multi-home run game Thursday against the Padres, Owings cited a few factors for his success.
"I’m not really doing anything different, mechanically. I’m driving the ball and getting better counts. Plus, my shoulder is stronger and I have more strength."
Lost in Owings delivering the rocket’s red glare was a solid effort from Taijuan Walker, the Diamondbacks starter. In gaining his third win of the season, Walker went eight solid, innings and threw 104 pitches. After yielding a first inning run, Walker settled down and allowed three base runners over his final seven innings. These included a two-out double by Erick Aybar in the second, Walker hit left fielder Allen Cordoba with a pitched ball to lead off the fifth and surrendered a two-out homer to Ryan Schimpf in the seventh.
For the game, Walker went those eight, strong innings and fanned 11. That tied a career best for the sixth time. Afterward, Walker told Venom Strikes his effort was all about picking up teammate Shelby Miller, who is lost for an indefinite period with a partial tear of his right UCL.
"It’s all about caring for one another. We’re family here and that’s why we’re winning. Me? My fast ball was working well and after the sixth inning, I felt getting stronger. I managed to mix in my curve and I think that made my fast ball more effective."
By taking three-of-four from the Padres, the Diamondbacks have captured their first four series at home for the third time in franchise history. They took five consecutive series to open a season in 1999 and again in 2008.
The Colorado Rockies move in for a weekend, three-game set.
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In the opener Friday night, look for a pair of lefties to battle. It’s Robbie Ray (2-0, 3.42) taking on the Rox’ Kyle Freeland (2-1, 3.32). On Saturday, righty Zack Greinke (2-2, 2.93) opposes lefty Tyler Anderson (1-3, 7.11). In the series and home stand finale Sunday afternoon, Patrick Corbin (2-2, 3.10) challenges right-hander German Marquez (0-1, 18.00).