Diamondbacks 6, Cardinals 2: 3-run fourth to start the season fits the mold in Arizona's rebuild

2013-04-02T00:00:00Z Diamondbacks 6, Cardinals 2: 3-run fourth to start the season fits the mold in Arizona's rebuildNick Piecoro The Arizona Republic Arizona Daily Star
April 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - The Arizona Diamondbacks constructed their lineup for these kinds of games, nights when they face a pitcher as tough as Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright.

They wanted a core of hitters capable of grinding out at-bats, stringing together hits and chipping away at the opposing pitcher.

And, though it was just one inning of one game, they got the kind of results they'd been dreaming about all off-season - and the kind they hope will continue throughout the season.

The Diamondbacks strung together four consecutive hits in a three-run fourth inning Monday, three of the hits coming with two strikes, and carried that to a 6-2 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals in their Opening Day game at Chase Field.

Concerned about his team being too reliant on home runs, Arizona general manager Kevin Towers remade his roster in the off-season, acquiring players whom he believed would be more consistent and handle the bat better.

But, as it turned out, the Diamondbacks' first rally of 2013 included hits from four players who were with the team last year. It started with one out in the fourth inning. A few pitches after flinging his bat into the stands on a swinging strike, Miguel Montero shot a two-strike fastball from Wainwright inside the third-base line for a clean single.

The next batter, Paul Goldschmidt, fell behind 0-2, but he laid off two Wainwright offerings, including a curveball, before looping another curve into left field for another single.

Two pitches later and it was Jason Kubel's turn to be behind 0-2. But he, too, came through, dropping a double into no-man's land in right-center field to drive in a run. A.J. Pollock followed by scorching a Wainwright fastball for a two-run double, a ball that Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay couldn't handle on a diving attempt.

Arizona added a run in the fifth on an aggressive baserunning play by newcomer Martin Prado. When Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig couldn't dig a throw out of the dirt, Prado, who began the play at second base, rounded third and took off for home, scoring without a throw.

Throughout spring training, the Diamondbacks talked about having the kind of lineup that was filled with tough outs, about taking advantage of these kinds of opportunities. They did just that on Monday.

"If someone's on the mound who's dealing, a bunt to get the runner over and a two-out knock might win the game," Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill said before the game.

"We're going to have to find our identity early."

They nearly manufactured a run in the first inning, too. After Gerardo Parra drove a double over the head of Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, Prado followed by chopping a ball over the mound, moving Parra to third. Hill, however, couldn't come through, hitting a soft bouncer to first, Parra having to stay put at third.

A year after going just 17-40 in games in which they did not homer, the Diamondbacks had a late lead in Monday night's game while having kept the ball in the park.

We "kind of (want) more of a situational type lineup where we're not really just waiting for an error, walk or a home run all the time," manager Kirk Gibson said. "We'd sure like to hit them. But the reality is, it doesn't happen all the time."

Though he may have battled some issues with locating his pitches last season following a 21-win season in 2011, right-hander Ian Kennedy was spot-on accurate Monday night against the Cardinals.

Making his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Diamondbacks, Kennedy threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the first 21 batters he faced and allowed just five hits and two runs over seven strong innings.

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