08/04/12 7:53 PM ET
Kennedy at ease of late on the mound
By Jake Kaplan / MLB.com
"Those are the times where I feel like some of the best pitchers battle through it and find a way to get through that sixth or seventh inning," he said Saturday.
That's what Kennedy did in Friday night's 4-2 win over the Phillies, his fourth straight victory. He didn't have his best stuff, and the humidity affected his changeup because he was sweating so much. Regardless, Kennedy (10-8) kept his club in the game over six solid innings.
With just eight runs allowed over his past 28 1/3 innings, the right-hander seems to be in a bit of a groove on the mound.
A season removed from posting a 21-4 record, Kennedy had a good start to 2012, but he struggled in May. In addition to pitching better recently, he said the team's performance as a whole has helped him on the mound.
"When your team's scoring runs, it puts you in a good position to be more aggressive [and you don't] have to be so fine when you're pitching behind," Kennedy said. "That changes how you pitch. No matter what anybody tells you, it does change how you pitch and you're more aggressive."
Johnson having smooth transition with D-backs
PHILADELPHIA -- When players join a new club, they often feel like they have to impress their new teammates. The ensuing results vary with that added pressure, but for Chris Johnson, they've been nothing but positive since he joined the D-backs on July 29.
In Friday night's 4-2 win over the Phillies, Johnson went 1-for-4 with an RBI. The third baseman entered Saturday's game 7-for-14 with one double, two home runs and eight RBIs in four games since he was acquired from the Astros.
"I was feeling pretty good before I got traded, trying to simplify my approach and just see the ball," Johnson said. "I've been seeing the ball pretty well. It was a good time for it, so I could come over here and be a little more comfortable and get some hits to try to help out."
As any player would, Johnson also said it was fun to be part of a pennant race, something he would not have experienced with Houston. The D-backs entered Saturday having won the first four games of their road trip, also winning 11 of their past 14 games. At 55-51, they're just two games back of the first-place Giants and a half-game behind the Dodgers in the National League West.
"It's a great clubhouse, a very relaxed clubhouse," Johnson said. "Guys just want to win. That's really all it's about here. It's pretty fun to be around."
Said manager Kirk Gibson: "He's been good for us. To expect him to keep up that pace is not realistic. But he's playing really well right now. I think he feels very comfortable. He's enjoying himself."
Hill rests as McDonald starts in his place
PHILADELPHIA -- When D-backs manager Kirk Gibson arrived to Citizens Bank Park around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, second baseman Aaron Hill was already there.
"I came in today, and I was alluding to [the fact that] I want to make sure that we keep everybody fresh," Gibson said. "And he says, 'Wait a minute. What's going on?'... He was waiting for the lineup to go up."
When it eventually did, Hill wasn't on it. Gibson gave Hill a day off for Saturday's middle game against the Phillies. John McDonald started at second base, batting out of the eight-hole.
Hill, who is hitting .299 with 13 homers and 47 RBIs, has played in all but four games this season.
"He's played more than anybody else," Gibson said. "He was on quite a roll. Now, not as much. [He's] playing hard. I see some frustration. I'm just going to stay ahead of it."
Willie Bloomquist could return to the field for Sunday's series finale against the Phillies, manager Kirk Gibson said. Bloomquist is battling back pain, and entering Saturday's contest, he had not played in four straight games. Gibson doesn't think it's a situation that will warrant sending Bloomquist to the disabled list.
Left-handed pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs struck out nine over seven innings in Triple-A Reno's win on Friday night.
"He's trending right now really well," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Skaggs, the organization's third-best prospect, according to MLB.com. "Just in general, he's throwing the ball better than he has all year, being more efficient."
J.J. Putz recorded his 20th save on Friday, marking the fourth time in his career he's recorded at least 20 saves.
With his 100th career home run on Friday, Justin Upton became the fifth player in franchise history to reach that mark. Luis Gonzalez (224), Steve Finley (153), Chris Young (129) and Mark Reynolds (121) are the others.
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.