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Owings dominates Braves with bat

Owings dominates Braves with bat

ATLANTA -- There were times when Micah Owings was growing up less than an hour from here in Gainesville, Ga., that he dreamed of becoming a star player for the Braves.

Never in his wildest imagination, though, could he have envisioned having a game like the one he had on Saturday night at Turner Field.

Maybe Owings thought he'd hit two homers and drive in six runs in a game, or that he would pitch seven quality innings. But to do both on the same night?

"How could you?" Owings said.

Yet that's exactly what Owings did as he led the red-hot Diamondbacks past the Braves 12-6 in front of 48,643 on a muggy night. The win was the fourth straight for the first-place D-backs, who have won 21 of their last 26 games.

The victory was the first for Owings (6-6) since June 20 and while his pitching line -- seven innings, three hits, three runs, three earned runs, no walks, seven strikeouts -- was more than respectable, it was his offensive performance that had his teammates buzzing following the game.

"The guy went out there, attacked the guys, was aggressive and made them put the ball in play," catcher Chris Snyder said of Owings. "Him swinging it? There ain't nothing I can say about that. It's just unbelievable."

Owings became the first pitcher to homer twice in a game since Florida's Dontrelle Willis did so on Sept. 20, 2006 and the six RBIs were the most by a pitcher since Philadelphia's Robert Person knocked in seven on June 2, 2002. Owings' 11 total bases were the most for a pitcher since Jim Tobin of the Boston Braves had 12 when he homered three times on May 13, 1942, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The record for RBIs by a pitcher in one game is nine set by Tony Cloninger of Atlanta, who had two grand slams against San Francisco on July 3, 1966.

Owings drove in two with a double in the second before hitting a solo homer in the fourth and a two-run shot in the sixth. He finished his RBI binge with an RBI single in the seventh.

"I've never seen a pitcher do that," outfielder Eric Byrnes said. "It's unbelievable."

Owings' prowess at the plate is well-known. A two-way player at Georgia Tech and later Tulane, he has pinch-hit twice this year, and came into the game with one homer and a batting average of .205.

"You don't normally expect that out of a pitcher, but if you know anything about him you know that the potential is there to do it," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "Two home runs might be a stretch."

Said Byrnes, "[Owings is] different. He's always been a good hitter, he knows how to swing the bat, he's got a good approach at the plate. You get him on a night that he's swinging good, he can run into a couple like he did tonight. It's just very impressive."

A humble, deeply religious man, Owings is an intense competitor, who is gracious in the time he gives the media, but if you expect him to beat his chest or say something outrageous you'll be disappointed.

"I'm just blessed," Owings said. "Early on in the season I was racking up some 'W's'. I had to learn some things and iron some things out. To be back home and have the game that I did tonight, that's all I can say, I'm unbelievably blessed."

Fellow starter Brandon Webb, who is in the midst of a 42-inning scoreless streak, said the D-backs lineup takes on a different look on the days that Owings pitches.

"It's like we have a DH, it's not like a pitcher up there," he said. "It's like we're playing with the American League rules when he's pitching."

Melvin showed how much confidence he had in Owings by starting a runner with a 3-2 count and Owings at the plate. That's standard operating procedure with a position player at the plate, but a rarity with a pitcher up.

"He's got as much power as anybody we've got on our team," Melvin said. "It's having another hitter in your lineup and another significant hitter."

Owings had allowed just one run through six, but appeared to tire in the seventh, as he gave up back-to-back, two-out homers to Jeff Francoeur and Andruw Jones. The earlier run he allowed also came via the long ball, with Chipper Jones hitting one into the right-field seats in the first.

The Braves scored three in the bottom of the ninth off reliever Jailen Peguero, who was optioned to Triple-A following the game, but it wasn't enough to overcome the D-backs lead or tarnish Owings' performance.

"It's up there," he said when asked where this game ranked among all his others. "Maybe one of the best ever. Maybe after it slows down I can reflect a little bit. Right now all I can think is how blessed I am."

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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