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ARI@KC: Saunders hurls seven innings of two-run ball

KANSAS CITY -- One pitch into the game, D-backs starter Joe Saunders found himself in a hole as Alex Gordon homered to right.

"You can either suck it up and get some outs or you can kind of cave in," Saunders said. "For me, I thought to myself it was a weird pitch, he swung at it and hit it in the perfect spot, so tip your cap, move on and refocus, and try to get some groundballs."

That's exactly what Saunders did as he settled in to pitch seven quality innings to lead the D-backs past the Royals, 7-2, in front of 19,305 at Kauffman Stadium.

The D-backs, by virtue of the Giants' 9-2 loss to the Twins on Tuesday, moved into first place by one-half game over San Francisco in the National League West standings.

Saunders (4-7) snapped a personal two-start losing streak as he allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings.

"I got some big groundball outs against some good hitters over there, the defense played great behind me and we got some clutch hits down the stretch," Saunders said.

"You don't like to see a game started that way, with a home run," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "But he settled down and pitched a good game, gave us seven strong innings."

Most of the talk in the visitor's clubhouse following the game was about Wily Mo Pena's home run in the fifth that tied the game at 1-1.

"He was pretty efficient with his strikes and he kind of had us eating out of his hand a little bit," Gibson said of Royals starter Luke Hochevar. "Wily Mo kind of broke the ice. That's what we brought him up here for."

Pena, who had his contract selected from Triple-A Reno earlier in the day, hit a line drive that carried out over the wall and landed 422 feet away in the fountain just to the right of the batter's eye.

"That was probably one of the more impressive home runs I've ever seen," Justin Upton said. "That ball was on a line and if it didn't run into something it was going to keep going. It was an impressive swing. We hope to get more of that out of him."

The D-backs brought up Pena to serve as their designated hitter with nine of their next 12 games coming in American League parks.

"That ball -- unbelievable," Saunders said. "It's special to see someone hit a ball that hard."

That was Pena's lone hit of the game and he saw just two fastballs the rest of the game as he struck out in his next two at-bats.

"After he hit the home run they became a little stingier with their pitches," Gibson said. "He'll have to make an adjustment on that because you can see what he does when he gets a fastball out over the plate."

It was Pena's first big league homer since June 24, 2008.

"I wasn't thinking about the homer," Pena said. "I worked hard in the offseason just to make contact, just to hit for average. The home runs will come. That's what I was doing, just making contact and everything paid off."

The D-backs grabbed their first lead of the game one inning later on an RBI double by Upton.

The D-backs finally started to break things open against Hochevar (4-8) in the seventh with a three spot, two of which came on a triple by Gerardo Parra.

"I think we had to make him throw the ball in the zone," Upton said. "He was throwing a lot of marginal pitches that looked good to us and we were swinging early and that's kind of his game. His game plan early on was to get us to swing early at his pitches, but later on we were able to get him in the zone and get some pitches that we wanted to hit and not his pitches."

Chris Young capped the Arizona scoring in the eighth with a two-run homer, his 15th of the year.

"They just started tacking on runs late in the game and we couldn't keep up," Gordon said.

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