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ARI@MIA: Saunders shuts down Marlins in complete game

MIAMI -- Joe Saunders knew he had his good stuff working Friday night at Marlins Ballpark.

So when he was struck in the left leg by a comebacker in the fourth inning, there was no way he was going to come out of the game.

Saunders was able to shake off the blow as he went on to deliver a knockout punch to the Marlins, tossing a three-hitter as the D-backs won, 5-0, to snap a two-game losing streak and get their 10-game road trip started on the right foot.

The win was a much-needed boost for a team that had dropped seven of nine coming in and had one of its rotation mainstays on the disabled list and another on the verge of heading to the bullpen.

"I was making good pitches and I was just fortunate for them to hit the ball at my defense, and my defense was awesome," Saunders said.

Speaking of awesome, that's what Saunders has been through the season's first month.

In four starts, he has compiled a 0.90 ERA and allowed just 19 hits over 30 innings.

"He's been very consistent," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's taken the ball every fifth day and been just really dominant in his stuff."

Saunders was in total control throughout the entire game. Of the 27 outs he recorded, he got 18 on the ground, including three double plays.

Only two of the Marlins' three singles made their way to the outfield and only one ball was hit in the air to the outfield, a second inning flyout to center.

No Miami runner got as far as second base.

"He threw the ball good," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "A combination of a good pitcher on the mound and a really bad hitting team right now."

The D-backs gave him an early lead as they jumped on Miami starter Carlos Zambrano for a run in the first.

One inning later, Saunders helped himself out when he came up with the bases loaded and lofted a sacrifice fly that scored Aaron Hill to put Arizona up 2-0.

Arizona outfielder Jason Kubel, who was 4-for-4, said the D-backs tried to get Zambrano to bring the ball up in the zone before they swung.

"You know everything is moving," Kubel said of Zambrano's pitches. "Down and in, down and away, so just see it up. If it's down, you know it's going to drop out of the zone, so just see it up. In the past, I've had trouble with big parks like this, trying to swing too hard, so I just took the easy approach today, tried to work off going up the middle."

Hanley Ramirez used the up-the-middle approach when he smoked a shot off Saunder's left calf in the fourth inning. It was the same leg that Saunders took a liner off during Spring Training.

Thankfully for the D-backs, this time the ball hit more muscle, whereas it hit on the side and bruised his shin the last time.

"The more pitches I threw, the more loose it got, so as the inning went on, I felt like I got stronger and I could actually push off," Saunders said.

A homer by Hill in the sixth and a two-run double by Miguel Montero in the ninth gave Saunders a cushion going into the bottom of the ninth.

After he walked the leadoff hitter in the inning, Saunders got pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan to ground into a double play.

Emilio Bonifacio, though, legged out an infield hit to keep the inning alive and nearly cost Saunders the complete game.

"He was actually running out of pitches," Gibson said. "I was going to have to take him out probably next hitter, but he did a great job."

Indeed, Saunders struck out Donnie Murphy to end the game and wrap up the third shutout of his career.

It also meant that the beard he's been growing has to stay as ordered by his teammates.

"I think I've got to keep it going," Saunders said. "I can't do anything right now; maybe a little trim job here or there, but I've got to keep it rolling."

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