PHOENIX -- For the second straight night, the D-backs gave their starting pitcher a big lead to work with thanks to a five-run first inning as they beat the Giants, 9-3, on Saturday night at Chase Field.The win put the D-backs one game ahead of the Dodgers for first place
PHOENIX -- For the second straight night, the D-backs gave their starting pitcher a big lead to work with thanks to a five-run first inning as they beat the Giants, 9-3, on Saturday night at Chase Field.
The win put the D-backs one game ahead of the Dodgers for first place in the National League West. The Dodgers lost, 14-0, to Houston on Saturday night.
"I feel like we have a great pregame routine and I feel like the guys go in and get ready right before the game," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "It's about being ready to hit that starting pitcher. Walking up to home plate equipped with information, execution, it's really a team effort. Everyone walks up to home plate ready to go."
First-inning runs are nothing new for the D-backs, who entered the day as the Major League leaders in that category with 87.
You can add five more to that total thanks to a two-out rally against Giants starter Andrew Suarez.
Steven Souza Jr. got the offense going when his two-out triple down the right-field line scored a pair of runs.
Nick Ahmed followed with an RBI single and Ketel Marte capped the inning with a two-run homer to left-center. Ahmed would go on to homer twice in subsequent at-bats.
"They're huge," Ahmed said of the early tallies. "Just momentum, I think. If you score first in the game, you're much more likely to win the game. You just try to jump out and attack early and we've done a good job of that lately."
For Ahmed, who homered twice in subsequent at-bats, it was the second multi-homer game of his career and goes along with a power surge he's had this year. His 16 home runs are seven more than his previous career high of nine set back in 2015.
"I've always known I had it in there," Ahmed said. "It's just taken a little longer than some other guys to pull it out. Just putting myself in a good position to see the ball really well and use my athleticism to attack the pitches I want them to swing at. It's just been a gradual process over the course of my whole professional career going back to when I was drafted."
Ahmed has worked with hitting coaches Dave Magadan, Tim Laker and Robert Van Scoyoc on the direction of his swing. The idea is to keep the barrel of the bat in the strike zone longer rather than cutting across the strike zone with it.
"If there's one thing to point to with the swing, that's it," Ahmed said.
The early runs were more than enough for Clay Buchholz (5-1). The right-hander pitched out of jams in the second and third innings and wound up allowing a pair of runs on seven hits over six innings.
"The Giants are a very potent team," Lovullo said. "You really can't take any lead for granted because they can jump on you in a hurry and Clay didn't give in."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pulling the string: The Giants were on the verge of getting back into the game in the fourth. Having already scored one run, they had runners at second and third with two outs and Evan Longoria, who had doubled in the third, at the plate. Longoria jumped ahead in the count, 2-0, before he took a curveball for a called strike. Buchholz then threw a changeup for a swing and a miss and after Longoria fouled off a cut fastball, Buchholz caught him looking with a changeup right down the middle.
"Obviously a good hitter, perennial All-Star and he's been around for a long time," Buchholz said of Longoria. "He can spoil pitches and make you throw strikes. It's almost a guessing game with him and I think that's how he feels about any pitcher -- if he guesses right, he usually doesn't miss it. It was definitely a big part of the game for us."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
It wasn't just at the plate that Ahmed helped the D-backs. In the third with runners at first and second and two outs, Joe Panik hit a slow chopper to short that Ahmed charged and barehanded and threw to first to end the inning.
The D-backs close out their four-game series with the Giants on Sunday afternoon with left-hander Robbie Ray (3-2, 5.05 ERA) on the mound. Ray got a no-decision last time out against the Rangers when he allowed four runs on two hits over 5 1/3 innings. The Giants will counter with lefty Derek Holland (5-8, 3.90).
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.