Joe Saunders needed only 99 pitches to dispatch the lowly San Diego Padres Tuesday night at Petco Park as the Arizona Diamondbacks won their third straight in a 6-1 victory. Saunders, the 30-year-old veteran lefty who wasn't expected to contribute much for the D-Backs this year, has quietly become a highly effective pitcher in the past couple of months.
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On Tuesday, he went the distance for his first complete game of the year, giving up one run in the bottom of the ninth. He allowed only six hits on the night, struck out four, and walked one while lowering his earned-run average to a respectable 3.63 in the process. In fact, Saunders hasn't given up more than three runs in any of his last eight starts. In short, he's become an excellent number-three starter behind young guys Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson.
WIth the win, the D-Backs gained a game on the first-place San Francisco Giants, who lost 7-2 to the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, and now three games out in the National League West race. They are 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the NL Wild Card spot.
Justin Upton, Kelly Johnson, and Willie Bloomquist led the way for the D-Backs' offense, with Upton and Johnson driving in two runs apiece and Bloomquist and Johnson getting three hits apiece. For Upton, one of his RBI came on his 18th home run of the season.
The D-Backs face the Padres again tonight, with Ian Kennedy (11-3, 3.22 ERA) facing Cory Luebke (3-4, 2.65, 73 strikeouts in 68 innings). First pitch is 7:05 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Net. Radio: KTAR 620 AM. More info: www.dbacks.com.