Kelly Johnson's selling point as a leadoff hitter is his patient approach at the plate. The power has been an occasional benefit, but never so much as Wednesday night.
Johnson hit 852 feet of homers in his third game with the Diamondbacks, his first as a leadoff hitter after Conor Jackson was at the top of the lineup in the first two games. Johnson hit his sixth career leadoff homer (421 feet) in the first inning, then tied the game at 3 with a 431-footer in the fifth. Both balls were hit to the deepest part of the park, center field.
Those were his first two hits of the season for the Diamondbacks, who have always liked him, have tried to trade for him, and called his agent minutes after he was not tendered a contract by Atlanta last December.
"Several teams called at 12:01 and 12:02 and 12:03, and Josh (Byrnes, the Diamondbacks general manager), was one of those guys. I was very excited to hear from him, because the Diamondbacks were on a short list of teams that I was hoping to hear from," Johnson said.
"They have as much talent as anyone in the league. There is no question about it," Johnson said. "Regardless of having the down year (in 2009), they have too much talent to expect that again. In the division, there are great places to play. And they had an opening at the right spot."
While Atlanta chose to keep talented and cost-effective Martin Prado, the D-backs signed Johnson to a $2.35 million deal.
Johnson has six career leadoff homers and five two-homer games. He had a career-high 16 homers in 2007 and hit 12 in 2008 before a wrist injury cramped his style last year, playing a part in Atlanta's decision to non-tender him.
"I'm a better hitter when I stay in the middle of the field," Johnson said.
Or over it.
DIAMONDBACKS 5, PADRES 3: Arizona hit four home runs -- two by 2B Kelly Johnson and one apiece by CF Chris Young and RF Justin Upton -- and overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the first series of the season. RHP Ian Kennedy lasted five innings in his first D-Backs start, and the bullpen gave up one hit in the final four innings.
--RHP Ian Kennedy struck out a career-high eight in his first start for the Diamondbacks after being acquired in a three-team deal at the winter meetings involving the Yankees and the Tigers. Kennedy gave up three runs on six hits and did not walk a batter, but San Diego had a good game plan and made him throw so many pitches -- 94 -- that he left after five innings.
--2B Kelly Johnson made his first start in the leadoff spot for Arizona on Wednesday and responded with his first two hits, both home runs. He hit a 421-footer to center field to lead off the first inning, and a 431-footer to tie the game at 3 in the fifth. His selling point at the top of the order is a .341 on-base percentage, and he also has 20 career homers while batting in theleadoff position. "I don't care where I am. I'm just glad to be in the lineup," Johnson said.
--The D-backs used five relievers for the final four innings -- LHP Jordan Norberto and RHP Blaine Boyer in the sixth, RHP Aaron Heilman in the seventh, RHP Juan Gutierrez in the eighth and closer Chad Qualls in the ninth. In games the D-backs lead, Heilman, Gutierrez, and Qualls appear to be the likely seventh-, eighth- and ninth-inning choices.
--San Diego 1B Adrian Gonzalez had solo homers in each of the first two games of the series, so Gutierrez wisely pitched around him when he batted with one out in the eighth. After walking Gonzalez, Gutierrez struck out cleanup hitter Kyle Blanks and got Chase Headley on a pop out to short center field. "I don't think it was a bad thing Adrian getting walked," D-backs CF Chris Young said.
--CF Chris Young's 396-foot homer in the sixth inning, which gave the D-backs a 4-3 lead, was the short shot of the evening. In addition to 2B Kelly Johnson's long bombs, RF Justin Upton gave the D-backs some insurance with a 432-foot shot in the eighth. It was Upton's first. The D-backs have six homers in their first three games.
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