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Monday’s heroes Saunders and Hill among unsung D-backs

Chris Young, who has had a ludicrously-impressive first 10
games of the season, stole the show on Monday night at
Chase Field, as the Diamondbacks beat the Pirates 5-1.
Young went 3-for-4 and hit his fifth home run of the
season, raising his batting average to .405 and his on-
base-plus-slugging percentage to 1.392.

After the game, reporters swarmed around Young, wanting to
know exactly how he has been able to log such
extraordinary numbers in these first several games. And
Young kept their intrigue for a good 10 minutes or so,
talking swing mechanics, offseason routine, and general
plate approach.

Meanwhile, across the D-backs clubhouse, pitcher Joe
Saunders, who was done visiting with the media, packed up
his things and left. And a few lockers down, second
baseman Aaron Hill did the same.

Indeed, around these parts, Chris Young and Justin Upton
and Miguel Montero and Ryan Roberts and Ian Kennedy and
J.J. Putz take a good majority of the D-backs fan’s
attention, no?

The average D-backs fan can give me the aforementioned
players’ career splits, birthplace, and Twitter handle
faster than Randy Johnson can throw a strike. But on
Monday night, I got to thinking about Saunders and Hill —
the other heroes of that 5-1 win against the Pirates.

Saunders, the D-backs’ fifth starter, has logged a 0.67
ERA in two starts this season, and he was resilient on
Monday. After allowing a first-inning run, he escaped a
bases-loaded jam and went on to set down 17 of the next 21
batters he faced.

Because Saunders has struggled for much of his time in the
D-backs starting rotation, it’s easy to forget the left-
hander’s sound past. While he was with the Angels,
Saunders was an All Star in 2008 — the year he won 17
games. Then, in 2009, Saunders had another solid season,
recording 16 wins. In both seasons, the lefty won more
than half of the games that he started. How would you like
the southpaw at the back of your rotation to win 16 or 17
games this season?

Second baseman Aaron Hill was, similarly, key to the D-
backs on Monday night, by tying the game with a first-
inning home run. And I wouldn’t call you crazy if you
expected more big nights from the under-touted Hill.

As you’ll recall, the D-backs acquired their second
baseman from the Blue Jays in August of last season. Easy,
right? But Hill is much more than a pennant-run
supplement.

To say it understatedly, Hill was an All Star in 2009. The
first-round draft pick out of LSU hit .286 with 36 home
runs and 108 RBIs. That’s more home runs and more RBIs
than any current D-backs player — more than Upton and
Young and Kubel and Montero. How would you feel about
having that second baseman in your starting lineup?

You know the usual heroes on this team. Don’t be surprised
if the unsung D-backs — the less-touted guys like
Saunders and Hill — play significant roles this season.