Inciarte taking opportunity and running with it

Inciarte taking opportunity and running with it

SAN DIEGO -- Good luck trying to get D-backs outfielder Ender Inciarte out of the lineup any time soon.

Inciarte continued to make the most of his playing time Monday night as he went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles, a triple and four RBIs to help lead the D-backs past the Padres, 8-4, at Petco Park.

When the season opened, the plan was for Inciarte to split playing time in left field with David Peralta. However, Inciarte has proven to be an igniter on the bases, and he has twice started in center for A.J. Pollock, a lineup mainstay.

"He's forcing his way in there," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "It's exciting baseball. He's been a sparkplug for us."

Monday, Inciarte drove home a pair of runs in the second inning with a double off the left-field wall, and added a two-run triple in the eighth.

Inciarte's two-run triple

"I'm really happy that I got four RBIs, but the thing is that we won, and whatever we can do as a team to play together and win games, it's good," Inciarte said. "Whatever I can do to help the team. To be honest, I was really pumped up today, so as soon as I started the game, I was really happy to be out there and compete."

Inciarte stole a run in the seventh when he stretched a single to right-center into a hustle double, then eventually came around to score.

In his first three at-bats, Inciarte noticed that Padres center fielder Wil Myers was shaded toward left field, so as soon as the ball got through the infield on his seventh-inning hit, Inciarte was going to take second.

"I was just trying to be aggressive, and it worked," Inciarte said.

Injuries to D-backs outfielders gave Inciarte a chance to play last season, and he struggled mightily at first, hitting .156 in the month of May before finishing strong with a .307 mark in August and .308 in September.

"Last year, I proved to myself that I could play at this level," Inciarte said. "I had a rough start, and it was hard to believe that I belonged at this level. As soon as I started doing good, things started to change, and I [thought] I belong at this level. By the end of the season, I was really trusting myself, and I went to play winter ball and was being consistent there, too."

Inciarte kept that roll going during Spring Training, earning himself at least a platoon spot in left field.

Seven games into the season, Inciarte is hitting .393 and leads the team in runs scored (six) and is second in RBIs (six). Hard to imagine Hale taking Inciarte out of the lineup right now.

"I try not to think about that," Inciarte said. "I know that it's a big opportunity, I'm really happy that they trust me and try to keep me in the lineup, but whatever my role is, I'm just going to try and do my best. Just being out here with all these guys, I feel blessed. I just want to be as consistent as I can and try to make it to the playoffs."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.