Kubel belts two homers as Arizona downs Pittsburgh

Associated Press
Updated 8/9/2012 11:22 PM
  • Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson, right, greets Jason Kubel after a win against the Pirates Thursday in Pittsburgh.

    Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson, right, greets Jason Kubel after a win against the Pirates Thursday in Pittsburgh. Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- With Jason Kubel mired in a 5-for-39 slump heading into Wednesday's game, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson wanted to sit him out for a couple days to clear his head.

Come Thursday, Gibson reconsidered.

"He's got a chance of doing damage," Gibson explained before Thursday's game against the Pirates. "He's due."

Kubel sure was.

Kubel homered twice, Joe Saunders pitched seven effective innings and the Diamondbacks beat Pittsburgh 6-3 on Thursday.

Both of Kubel's home runs immediately followed hits by Aaron Hill. Wil Nieves also hit a two-run homer in his Diamondbacks debut.

"I said he was due, didn't I?" Gibson said after the game. "I'm glad I had him in there. It was just a great performance from him."

Saunders (6-8) retired 14 consecutive batters in the middle innings. He allowed two earned runs on seven hits with no walks. The Diamondbacks had lost five of his previous six starts.

J.J. Putz pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save of the season. He's converted 12 chances in a row.

After a three-run second that featured three singles and a sacrifice fly, the first two Pirates in the third singled off Saunders. He allowed only one more runner.

"The second inning was not much fun," Saunders said. "I was making pretty good pitches, and they were still kind of finding holes. I kept telling myself, `Keep making good pitches, keep pounding the strike zone and it's going to start going your way."'

Hill had three hits and Chris Johnson had two as Arizona completed a 6-4 road trip.

Gaby Sanchez had three hits for the Pirates.

After hitting an NL-high 11 home runs during July, Kubel was slumping enough recently that Gibson had him out of the lineup Wednesday. But the ejections of Chris Young and Justin Upton that night forced Kubel into the game late, and he was back in the No. 3 spot in the order Thursday.

Kubel moved into third in the NL with his 24th and 25th home runs. He has nine career multihomer games, including hitting three July 21 against Houston. Kubel homered in the first and seventh innings to open and close the game's scoring.

"I watched him (Wednesday) and he needed a mental day more than anything," Gibson said. "I could just tell. I played him a lot. He went through that streak of hitting all the home runs and then just was swinging and missing a lot ... (But) lefties this year are hitting better off (Pittsburgh starter Wandy Rodriguez), and there's always the chance for Kubel to hit it out of ballpark. It worked out for us."

After the Pirates took the lead with a three-run second, Nieves put Arizona ahead 4-3 when he homered with Johnson on base in the sixth. Nieves connected off Rodriguez (7-11) for his second home run of the season.

Claimed off waivers from Colorado on Monday, Nieves was playing for the first time since July 8. He was 2 for 4.

Rodriguez (7-11) allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings. He is winless in three starts since the Pirates acquired him from the Houston Astros for three prospects on July 24.

"I don't know what's going on with me -- I've lost the last two games on only one pitch," Rodriguez said. "Today in that last inning on Nieves, I hung a breaking ball and he hit a home run."

Pittsburgh's runs came on RBI singles by Michael McKenry and Marte and a sacrifice fly by Jordy Mercer.

"After that, (Saunders) just hit spots," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He hit more spots and worked ahead in the count. We were laying off some pitches, he got behind in some counts and we were able to drive some balls and do some things (in the second), but after that last window of opportunity we had, we didn't have much come our way at all."

NOTES: Arizona SS Willie Bloomquist was scratched from the lineup just before game time because of a stiff back. Stephen Drew took his place in the leadoff spot. ... The Diamondbacks have won 13 of their past 19 when facing a left-handed starter. ... McKenry has a nine-game hitting streak. ... Arizona had scored at least five runs 57 times, most in the NL. ... Pittsburgh continues its season-long 11-game homestand with three games against San Diego Friday through Monday. The Padres are the only NL team the Pirates have yet to play this season. ... Arizona returns home for a weekend series against the Washington Nationals -- the only three home games the Diamondbacks will play over a span of three weeks.

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