Just give Micah Owings a baseball and point him to the mound, and he'll bring you back a win.
On Friday, the scene was Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and the big right-hander's Major League debut. Neither fazed him as he pitched the D-backs past the Nationals, 7-1, in front of 19,234 on a chilly night.
Owings, who went a combined 16-2 at Double-A and Triple-A in 2006, allowed just one hit over five scoreless innings. Dating back to last year, he's now won 13 straight regular season decisions.
"He's quite the competitor," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "I think once the game started and he threw a few pitches, he couldn't even tell you where he is, all he knows is he's on a baseball field, doing what he does best."
After the game, Owings exchanged hugs with his parents, who were part of a close to 15-person contingent of friends and family in attendance. Then it was on to a television interview during which he received a shaving cream pie in the face from Orlando Hudson.
When he finally made it into the clubhouse, Owings was doused with beer by his teammates.
"No clue, I wasn't expecting it, but if that's the deal, I'll do it any day," Owings said of the beer shower. "The pie, too, I'll take the pie in the face all day long. I've been looking forward to this for a long time and I couldn't have asked for more."
Neither could the D-backs, who awarded Owings the No. 5 spot after a spirited Spring Training competition. He entered camp as a darkhorse because he was not on the 40-man roster, but in each of his outings, he pitched well while other candidates struggled. Finally, it seemed he gave the D-backs no choice but to keep him.
On Friday, he did a nice job of working both sides of the plate and he used his offspeed pitches more often than usual. His only real jam came in the fifth, when he loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter.
Ryan Zimmerman then came to the plate with two outs and Melvin decided to stick with the 24-year-old even though he'd thrown 93 pitches.
"You certainly have to let him go out in that situation where he hasn't given up a run to that point," Melvin said.
The first pitch to Zimmerman was a fastball that the slugger took for a called strike. The second, another fastball, was fouled off and the third pitch was a heater up and on the inside corner that Zimmerman swung through. Rally over.
|"The pie, too, I'll take the pie in the face all day long. I've been looking forward to this for a long time and I couldn't have asked for more."|
|-- Micah Owings|
Said Owings, who fanned Zimmerman on a similar pitch in the first inning, "First of all, he's a great hitter, a great player. I was just trying to mix with him. Basically that was my game plan, mix a little bit in and out, up and down, and just try to stay in pitcher's counts and not behind in the count, where he might hurt you."
"I faced him back in college, but he as gotten a lot better since then," Zimmerman said. He pitched well. It's always tough the first time you see somebody, especially [since] we had no video on him, no nothing. Just scouting reports. The pitcher definitely has the advantage."
Not every Nationals player was overly impressed, though.
"I thought he was getting a lot of calls and it was taking us away from our game plan," said shortstop Felipe Lopez, who had the lone Washington hit off Owings. "Instead of just being 2-0, it was 1-1. He had pretty good stuff. He didn't have anything out of this world. He was getting outs."
So was Nats starter Jerome Williams, who allowed just two runs (one earned) through the first five innings.
Finally in the sixth, the D-backs were able to break through. With two outs, Conor Jackson singled to center, Scott Hairston walked and Chris Young followed with a three-run blast to left to put Arizona up, 5-0.
"The C.Y. homer was huge," Melvin said. "Then we could relax a little bit."
That's certainly the way Owings appeared from the get-go, saying he felt more nervous during Spring Training because he was unfamiliar with this teammates than he did taking the RFK Stadium mound.
"Definitely I think more adrenaline than nerves," he said. "I'm a strong believer and I said a couple of prayers there and the big man upstairs pulled me through."
Just like always.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less