Owings Makes Important Change
Micah Owings homers (John Bazemore/AP)

Posted Aug 20, 2007


Micah Owings couldn't have asked for a better homecoming. Not only did the Gainesville native display perhaps the best offensive performance by a pitcher in 65 years, but he has lopped speed off his changeup and is locating all of his pitches better than he did during a hazardous month of June.

INSIDE PITCH

The hitting display Saturday in Atlanta earned him big headlines nationwide, but it's still the pitching that will determine rookie right-hander Micah Owings' major league record, and that part of things was overlooked following his two-home run, four-hit, six-RBI game at Turner Field against the Braves.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Owings' 11 total bases were the most by a pitcher since Jim Tobin of the Boston Braves had 12 when he homered three times on May 13, 1942.

"To be back home and have the game that I did, that's all I can say; I'm blessed," Owings, whose hometown is Gainesville, Ga., said after his hitting spree, which included a 465-foot shot to straightaway center field.

As rewarding of an experience as that was, and coming in front of more than 100 friends and family members in a 12-6 romp over the Braves, Owings also picked up his first victory since June 20.

He held an unsightly 9.55 ERA in July, but he has managed to string together four solid starts. One of the reasons why, according to pitching coach Bryan Price, is that Owings has been able to develop more command of his secondary pitches.

"If you keep ball/strike ratios on overall pitches and on changeups and sliders, there's been a huge increase in strike percentage his past four starts to where you're not looking at a guy who has 100 pitches with 58 strikes and 42 balls," Price said.

Owings threw 58 of his 78 pitches on Saturday for strikes, a telling sign. In his past four starts overall, 248 of his 375 pitches (66 percent) have been strikes.

Owings also has had some success lately with a slower-than-average changeup, a relatively new pitch he's created.

"It's kind of a jam-it-back-in-your-hand changeup," Price said. "He said he just pushed it back further in his hand and it took an extra 6 to 8 mph off his changeup. I'm sure he's thrown it before, but it's not a pitch we've been working on in the bullpen."

BRAVES 6, DIAMONDBACKS 2: After witnessing two monster pitching performances from Brandon Webb and Micah Owings on consecutive days, the Braves and John Smoltz apparently had enough. Smoltz handcuffed Arizona on Sunday.

Smoltz, 40, fanned 12 Diamondbacks, his highest single-game total since he struck out 15 Mets in April 2005. It just his second victory since June.

"He's just dynamic," second baseman Orlando Hudson said. "He's a handful."

Arizona had its four-game win streak snapped but won the three-game series for its ninth series victory in a row.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Brandon Webb will look to extend his team-record streak of 42 consecutive scoreless when he starts Wednesday against the visiting Brewers. A big part of his success, according to C Chris Snyder, has been Webb's unique changeup, which doesn't tail off at the end, but rather completely bottoms out.

"There's got to be some kind of name for it," said Snyder, who has caught every inning of Webb's streak, the longest in the majors since Orel Hershiser's record streak of 59 in 1988. "It does not do what a normal changeup would do. You get caught up with his sinker, and his sinker is probably one of the best in the game, but his changeup, I've never seen anything like it."

--RHP Micah Owings, by going 4-for-5 with two homers, four runs and six RBIs on Saturday at Atlanta, became the first pitcher two homer twice in a game since Florida LHP Dontrelle Willis did it Sept. 20, 2006. He also is the first pitcher to score four times and get four hits since Danny Jackson in 1988. His six RBIs were the most by a pitcher since June 2, 2002, when Philadelphia's Robert Person drove in seven runs.

--RF Justin Upton went 3-for-19 with eight strikeouts during the Diamondbacks' six-game trip to Florida and Atlanta. The rookie is now hitting .245.

--LHP Doug Davis, who starts Tuesday's game at Chase Field against Milwaukee when Arizona opens a six-game homestand, has won his last five decisions over seven starts, during which he has a 3.13 ERA.

--LF Eric Byrnes, who had started all but one game this season, got his second day off Sunday so manager Bob Melvin could give his energetic leader some much-needed rest. It was the first time this season Byrnes did not play at all.

BY THE NUMBERS: 42 -- Consecutive scoreless-innings streak, a new Diamondbacks record, by right-hander Brandon Webb from July 20-Aug. 17.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's still a fly ball, and I've got to concentrate on it. [Committing errors] heightens the concentration. Those errors can't be made. So I've got to bear down and make sure those balls are caught." -- Rookie right fielder Justin Upton, on committing five errors in his first 12 games.

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