Owings hurls first career complete game
Backed by early runs, righty cruises to third win of season
PHOENIX -- Before Wednesday's game against Colorado, Arizona manager Bob Melvin was asked if he would like to be involved in an 11-1 game, a rarity this year with Arizona playing so many close games and not scoring many runs.
"That would be nice, as long as we're on the 11 side," he said.
Melvin got his wish Thursday as the D-backs tied a season high with nine runs on their way to a 9-1 victory over the Astros in front of 18,130 at Chase Field.
"I'll take it and a complete game and the whole bit," Melvin said after the victory. "All the way around, it was kind of a feel-good game."
The contest marked only the fourth time all season Arizona scored eight runs or more. The entire lineup played a part in the blowout, with eight different players either scoring a run or recording an RBI.
"To get everybody involved it's good to see," said Eric Byrnes, who went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. "It's the type of team that we are. It's the type of production that we need from everybody. For everybody to come out there and have a good night, it's good to see."
After scoring a total of one run in the past two contests, both losses, the D-backs started fast in the first inning against Houston starter Wandy Rodriguez (2-4). Arizona scored four runs on five hits, including four for extra bases.
Melvin said that helped the team psychologically after the squad's struggles the past few days, which came on the heels of a series in Pittsburgh, where the D-backs thought they had busted out of their season-long offensive funk.
"We felt like we were getting somewhere and then got bogged down. Then [we] came out here today against a guy [Rodriguez] who's given us some trouble and gave us some trouble last time, and it ended up being a nice game for us," Melvin said. "We don't see too many of those."
Micah Owings (3-1) took it from there, earning the first complete-game victory of his career. He allowed one run on nine hits and struck out eight.
"It's definitely huge," Owings said of the complete game. "For me, it's big just knowing that I can do it, I can go through the order, two and three and four times and keep trusting my stuff. I learned a lot from the guys here. They're warriors who get through the games."
After allowing seven hits in the first three-plus innings and dodging trouble, Owings settled down, retiring 17 of 18 batters.
In the early going, Owings' defense helped him avoid big innings. Chris Young threw out Carlos Lee for the final out in the third after catcher Chris Snyder picked off Brad Ausmus at second base in the second and caught Craig Biggio stealing in the first.
Melvin said the second-inning pickoff was particularly important, with the Astros scoring their only run of the game later in the inning.
"The way the game was going, that was huge because [Owings] was throwing some pitches, they were getting some hits and now you pick a guy off and you feel like you got one back right there," Melvin said. "So to that extent, it was great that now all of a sudden it was an inning that didn't look like potentially it could be a big inning. I think he kind of felt it, too, and ends up getting out of the inning and goes pretty good after that."
Arizona needed Owings to pitch deep into the game with Randy Johnson being scratched from his start Friday. Before Thursday's contest, Melvin said he hoped he would not need Edgar Gonzalez in this game, so he could be the spot starter in place of Johnson.
Now with Gonzalez likely not being able to go more than five or six innings Friday, it further helps Arizona to have a rested bullpen.
"The command got better as the game went on," Melvin said, "and [Owings] was very aware of the situation, what was going on [Friday]. [He] came in after the eighth and basically said, 'I'm not coming out of this game. I'm finishing this game.' That was big for us."
Owings bounced back from his worst outing of the year, when he allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings after having his start skipped the time before.
"I've talked to a couple guys and [pitching coach Bryan Price] about it," Owings said, "and that's the thing, you come out and try to do too much, saying, 'I have to do this.' I was just trying to concentrate on what I had to do. It's a long season, so just try to take it one step at a time."
The only downside of the game for Arizona may have been that Young left the contest after the third inning. He had missed the past five games with tightness in his right groin.
Young said he had some trouble running from first to third on a Conor Jackson double in the first inning and in trying to track down a ball hit by Lee in the third that went for a double, a play Young thought he should have made.
"It wasn't hurting," Young said. "It's just the mental thing. It was obvious out there tonight I was thinking about it. I'll go out there tomorrow, go out there early, try to break that and run for speed."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.