Clark leads way in D-backs win in finale
Veteran first baseman his two homers, drives in three runs
PHOENIX -- Livan Hernandez was frustrated, angry actually, when he walked off the mound following a three-run first inning by the Padres.
"I was mad at myself because I felt so good, but gave up three runs in the first inning," Hernandez said. "The way I felt, I was supposed to be better than that."
Hernandez is resilient and he figured if he could just hold the Padres in check from then on, his offense would come through for him.
First baseman Tony Clark made sure of that as he smacked a pair of home runs to lead the D-backs past the Padres, 7-4, Thursday night in front of a franchise-low 16,792 at Chase Field.
"He's able to put it behind him where maybe a younger pitcher gets behind, 3-0, now they're beating themselves up on the bench, they go out there and the next thing you know it's 5-0," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said.
The D-backs scored three runs in the second off Chris Young to tie the game at 3 and while Hernandez was keeping the Padres off the scoreboard, Clark was ending any chance Young had of finding his rhythm.
After a strikeout in the second, Clark homered in his next two at-bats.
The first one was a solo shot in the fourth that gave Arizona its first lead and the next was a two-run shot in the sixth that gave the D-backs some breathing room at 6-3.
"More than anything else, you simply try to put the head of the bat on the ball and you take your chances there," Clark said. "If I put the head of the bat on the ball, I give myself a chance. A lot of times I get caught trying to do too much and, more often than not, less is more. I was fortunate off a guy who's an extremely good pitcher to get the head of the bat on the ball and get some runs on the board."
The homers gave Clark four for the year with the other two also coming in the same game -- April 15 against the Rockies.
"He's come up big for us several times," Melvin said of Clark. "It seems like when he gets one, good chance he's going to get two."
The veteran was in the lineup because Conor Jackson is out with a sore hamstring and because Melvin liked the matchup of Clark and Young. Clark hit 30 homers for the D-backs in 2005, but a shoulder injury, which eventually required surgery, hampered him all last year, and his production and playing time fell dramatically.
Even when Jackson is healthy, Melvin is likely to still find some at-bats for Clark against pitchers he thinks he'll be successful against.
"I've never played with a guy that works as hard as he does," outfielder Eric Byrnes said of Clark, "that stays as prepared as he does and that has the presence in the clubhouse. I've never played with a guy like that. We need him right now. Our offense has been scuffling a little bit, so to get that boost from a veteran guy like that really helps us out."
The three-run margin in the game was a laugher by D-backs standards. Through their first 22 games of the year, 14 were decided by two runs or less and eight were one-run affairs.
After losing six straight games, the D-backs broke through with a 3-2 walk-off win off Trevor Hoffman on Wednesday night and whatever momentum they gained seemed to carry over to Thursday.
They'll need all the mojo they can get. It was the Giants that put the Arizona bats into a deep freeze last weekend in San Francisco and they visit Chase Field for a three-game series beginning Friday.
The first two pitchers the D-backs will face in the series -- Barry Zito and Matt Cain -- allowed one run between them in their two starts against Arizona last weekend.
"Absolutely it can," Byrnes said when asked if the success of the past two days could help the D-backs against the Giants. "We've had a few guys scuffling at once, but we've been in every game, and that's the biggest thing. We're learning how to play the tight games. There's going to be a point this year when we get four or five guys hot at once and that's when we're going to start putting up some runs."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.