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Hot starts take pressure off hurlers

Hot starts take pressure off hurlers

PHOENIX -- Following a year in which the Diamondbacks made the playoffs with a negative run differential, manager Bob Melvin has been able to sit in the dugout with a much more secure feeling through the season's first 16 games.

And that's not just because the D-backs currently lead the entire Major Leagues in that same category this season, scoring 49 more runs than they've allowed.

Melvin points to the first inning, where the D-backs have outscored their opponents 23-5 this year before Saturday's game, including scoring in 10 of the 16 games in the opening frame.

"When you're playing well, there's nothing like having a good first inning," Melvin said. "That's been as impressive as anything we've done this year, is the leads we've gotten off to."

The D-backs got off to a huge lead early on Friday night, pounding Padres pitcher Greg Maddux for six runs in the first and then one more in the second. The early outpouring tied a franchise record for first-inning runs.

Maddux's mound opponent, Dan Haren, was given a lot more flexibility to throw strikes with the early lead.

"Scoring runs early is always nice," Haren said. "It lets the pitcher be more aggressive in the strike zone, at least for me personally. When you score runs in the beginning of the game, it really puts pressure on the other team. In the Major Leagues, it's hard to come back."

With such an early lead, Haren said he still wouldn't have changed his approach, but the big early lead allowed him to be even more aggressive.

Last season, the D-backs outscored their opponents 93-90 in the first inning. With the 23 runs thus far, the team is on pace to shatter last season's total.

The D-backs have scored first 12 times through 16 games, going 10-2 in that span.

"With the starting pitcher we run out there, especially at home, it's a pretty secure feeling knowing you can put a few runs up on the board, and then run anybody out there who's starting for us right now enables them to kind of settle in and do their thing," Melvin said.

Mike Ritter is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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