D-Train's first Arizona stop: Victory lane

D-Train's first Arizona stop: Victory lane

PHOENIX -- The National League does suit Dontrelle Willis.

Pitching six shutout innings, Willis beat the Colorado Rockies almost single-handedly, 4-3, in front of 28,138 at Chase Field on Saturday. Almost single-handedly. That's because Ryan Roberts, who pinch-hit for him in the sixth and was Friday's walk-off hero, and Kelly Johnson doubled home three runs that proved crucial in Arizona's franchise-tying sixth straight one-run game.

"It's a good stepping stone," said Willis, who also singled and scored the D-backs' first run in his return to the NL after spending parts of three seasons in the AL. "We just have to keep building off the momentum and go from there."

With a modest two-game winning streak, which no player has affected as much as Roberts, following their 10-game slide, the D-backs secured a series victory -- their first since taking two of three from Toronto on May 21 and 22 -- before they even face you know who in Sunday's series finale: Ubaldo Jimenez (10-1, 0.78 ERA, who will attempt to beat Arizona for the third time this season.

Willis (1-0), who made eight starts for the Detroit Tigers before he was traded for Billy Buckner on Tuesday, wasn't exactly perfect on the mound. He walked at least one batter in each of his first four innings, and he and battery mate Chris Snyder allowed four stolen bases.

Willis did pitch around his troubles, though. With runners on first and third and two outs in the fifth inning -- the fourth of five consecutive frames that Willis allowed a Rockie to advance into scoring position -- he struck out Brad Hawpe on a high heater. The lefty's many-moving-parts pitching motion took him to the ground, and he slapped at it in celebration. (He also slapped the mound after giving up a sixth-inning double to Chris Iannetta, the ninth of 12 Rockies left stranded for the game; Colorado went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.)

When asked, "What does that say about Dontrelle when the chips are down?" Willis said: "That they're lining out. That's a good thing. I'll take it however I get it."

Said manager A.J. Hinch of Willis' 106-pitch effort: "With all his imperfections and how he battles himself, to watch a guy go out and compete and leave it all on the line is a good sight to see. He made a nice first impression."

At the moment, Willis doesn't appear to have much competition for the rotation's fifth spot. Kris Benson, who made three starts before straining his right shoulder, struggled in his third rehab start Friday night, yielding eight earned runs in 1 1/3 innings for Triple-A Reno. So, despite the fact that Willis' command issues appear unsolved, he can now be called D-Train No. 5.

"That's all part of his effectiveness -- he's effectively wild as they would say and isn't going to give in," Hinch said. "I didn't think [Colorado's] lefties looked entirely comfortable against him."

After Willis' exit Saturday, Carlos Rosa allowed two runs on sacrifice flies in the seventh before Aaron Heilman inherited his bases-loaded predicament and walked in a third Rockies run with two outs. Heilman righted himself with a 1-2-3 eighth, paving the way for closer Chad Qualls to notch his 10th save.

Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin (3-4), whose May 25 six-inning performance kicked off Arizona's 10-game skid, gave up a 1-0 lead in the third inning, but it wasn't entirely his fault. Following Willis' leadoff single through the infield -- it was his first hit in 979 days, since he was a Florida Marlin in 2007 -- Willis would have been forced out at second base on Johnson's grounder to first base, but Jason Giambi's throw to second sailed into left field. Two batters later, when Stephen Drew singled to left field, D-backs third-base coach Bo Porter didn't hesitate sending Willis home from second. Willis just beat the throw by swiping his left hand over home plate.

"The plate ended up moving backwards as I got closer," Willis joked. "A refrigerator got on my back toward the end. ... I don't know how to slide feet first."

Andrew Pentis is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.