Justin Upton's Late Homer Lifts Diamondbacks Over Rockies

By jimneveau


Thoughts on Thursday’s Win:

Justin Upton socked a ninth inning home run, and JJ Putz held on for dear life to get a save despite allowing the first three hitters of the bottom of the ninth to reach base as the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the Colorado Rockies 9-7 to split their brief two game series in Denver.

The craziness of the ninth inning capped off a quite ludicrous day in the Mile High City that saw so many swings of momentum that you could almost feel as though you were watching an election cycle where politicians on each side are having scandal after scandal plague them. The Rockies started out red hot, with Troy Tulowitzki bopping a first inning home run and Dexter Fowler socking an RBI triple in the second inning. Willie Bloomquist had an RBI single to make it 3-1, but Jordan Pacheo hit a solo homer in the fifth inning, and it pretty much appeared that the Rockies were going to put the game in cruise control.

Finally, as if a match had been lit underneath them, the Diamondbacks actually stormed back and scored a slew of runs from the sixth inning on. They scored one in that frame, one in the seventh, and then four in the eighth inning to take the lead. Ryan Roberts knocked in two of those runs to key the rally, and several other hitters joined in the fun as the team engaged in its best display of hitting in quite some time.

After that advantage was obtained, the Diamondbacks couldn’t hold on, as reliever David Hernandez, perhaps feeling the pressure of the sudden lead, coughed up three runs through a mixture of bad control (he walked three hitters, including two with the bases loaded) and also an error by Roberts that allowed the inning to continue. Brad Ziegler was able to come in and shut the door on the inning, but not before the game was tied up.

In the ninth, it appeared as though Rafael Betancourt was going to give the Rockies a chance to win with the heart of their order up, but Upton didn’t like that notion one bit, and socked a two-strike fastball into the right field bleachers to give the Diamondbacks the lead.

Putz came in and allowed singles to Carlos Gonzalez, Tulowitzki, and Todd Helton. With those three on base, however, Putz settled down, striking out pinch hitter Alex White and then coerced catcher Ramon Hernandez into grounding into a double play and ended the game after some really tense moments.

Ultimately, this game comes down to two things for the Diamondbacks. The first is that they are actually capable of hitting, and the confidence they obtained in this game could very well carry them forward. Upton’s home run was an opposite field shot on a fastball over the outside corner that could show that he is finally turning the corner in terms of his approach at the plate, and other performances like that of Roberts and Paul Goldschmidt could be positive barometers as the team awaits the return of several key pieces (more on that in a moment).

The other factor is that the team is still not completely certain of the back-end composition of their bullpen. Despite the performances of guys like Ziegler and Mike Zagurski, the jobs that Hernandez and Putz have done have left something to be desired, but Hernandez has been relatively solid other than today’s hiccup, so perhaps it is only going to be a one-time thing for him.

At any rate, Kirk Gibson is going to need to continue to get Putz work in order to steel him for future outings, because if the Diamondbacks can’t count on their closer to do his job, then they are going to have to try another route, and fast.

Updates on Injured Stars:

Chris Young played another rehab game with the Reno Aces on Thursday. According to reports, he is making sure that his shoulder is fully healed enough in order to do everything required for his job in center field, but the Diamondbacks seem confident enough in his health that they are likely going to call him up for Friday’s game in Kansas City. In all likelihood, he will bat in the DH spot against the Royals, and it is probable that AJ Pollock will be sent down to make room for him on the roster.

-Stephen Drew continues to play in extended spring training games, and he is probably going to be headed out on a rehab assignment soon. John McDonald will probably get the short end of the stick and find his way out of town when Drew returns to the lineup, although the date for that is far from certain at this point.

-Daniel Hudson pitched in an extended spring training game against the Oakland A’s on Wednesday, and it appears as though he will go on a rehab assignment and return to the team on Memorial Day weekend, if reports are to be believed.

He felt great after the session, and seems optimistic that the shoulder impingement that has been dogging him will no longer be an issue moving forward. In terms of who he’ll replace in the rotation, it will likely be Patrick Corbin, as Wade Miley has been very solid in that role since taking the spot vacated by Hudson in April. Corbin has been pitching in place of Josh Collmenter, who was demoted after a horrendous start to the season.

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