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D-backs hang on to get Kroenke first win

D-backs hang on to get Kroenke first win

LOS ANGELES -- Maybe this whole starting thing is the ticket for Zach Kroenke.

Called on to make a spot start, the D-backs left-hander notched his first Major League win as he pitched the D-backs past the Dodgers, 7-5, on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

Called up on Sept. 1, Kroenke hoped to make a few relief outings to make an impression for next season. But when Daniel Hudson injured a tendon in the middle finger of his right hand last weekend, the club decided to have him skip his final start of the year.

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In his place, the D-backs elected to go with Kroenke, who has spent most of the last three years in the Minors as a reliever, though he did make nine starts this year for Triple-A Reno.

"I wasn't planning on it a couple of weeks ago," Kroenke said. "But when they told me, I was definitely looking forward to it, was excited about it. And it was fun. You get to go out there and get more than just a couple of batters."

Especially when you pitch like Kroenke did Friday. The 26-year-old allowed just one run on two hits over five innings before giving way after 71 pitches. It was his first start since Aug. 31, when he tossed seven innings for Reno. Since that time, he has made just two appearances for a total of 1 2/3 innings, and he had not seen game action since Sept. 18.

"He did a great job," interim manager Kirk Gibson said. "He hasn't pitched in a while. He kept the ball down, was effective to both sides of the plate. He threw strikes, the guys played well behind him."

Shortstop Stephen Drew made a nice diving play to his right, while Kelly Johnson nabbed a grounder up the middle and center fielder Chris Young tracked down some drives in the gaps.

"Getting the first one in the big leagues is pretty cool," Kroenke said. "[I] got some really good plays made by guys behind me. They hit some balls hard, but fortunately right at guys, so I got away with a few things."

The D-backs' offense, which struggled in a three-game set in San Francisco earlier this week, jumped on Dodgers starter John Ely for a pair of runs in the first on an RBI double from Young, who then scored on Johnson's single up the middle.

The D-backs increased their lead to 5-0 in the third, when Adam LaRoche and Mark Reynolds had run-scoring hits and Brandon Allen added a sacrifice fly.

"It was actually a little less nerve-wracking, I'd say, just because of the fact that you weren't coming in to a situation where you've got bases loaded, a guy on second and third, nobody out," Kroenke said of starting rather than relieving. "You're going in, clean inning, beginning the game. We put up a couple of runs early, so that was kind of nice, and we kept pounding."

The lone run against Kroenke came in the fourth, when Matt Kemp hooked a homer down the left-field line.

"It was just a bad pitch," Kroenke said. "We were trying to go inside. The count was 1-2, so I had room to make a mistake further in and just threw it right over the middle above his belt line. He jumped on it and got it really good."

LaRoche then extended the Arizona lead to 7-1 with a two-out, two-run homer in the fifth to bring his RBI total to three for the game.

The extra runs proved important as the Arizona bullpen, particularly Esmerling Vasquez, struggled to close things out, allowing the Dodgers to score three runs in the sixth and another in the seventh.

"Vasquez, he's been struggling, and he didn't have a good outing, for sure," Gibson said.

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

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