Wily Mo Pena Homers in Diamondbacks' Debut

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Wily Mo Pena is slugging again after a lengthy hiatus.

Pena hit his first major league home run in nearly three years, Joe Saunders pitched seven strong innings and the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Kansas City Royals 7-2 Tuesday night.

Pena, just promoted from Triple-A Reno where he topped the Pacific Coast League with 21 home runs, hit a towering shot to right-center with two out in the fifth to tie the score 1-1. Pena's previous home run was June 24, 2008, while with the Washington Nationals .

This time last year, Pena was playing with the Bridgeport Bluefish in the independent Atlantic League. He had season-ending shoulder surgery on July 22, 2008, when he was last in the majors.

Royals starter Luke Hochevar had limited the Diamondbacks to one hit over the first 4 2-3 innings before Pena crushed a fastball to right-center.

"My first at-bat I was a little too anxious, swinging at the first pitch," Pena said of his foul pop. "My second at-bat, I said, 'Just calm down, I know it's been a long time since I'm here, just be like you were in Triple-A.' I was looking for my pitch."

He got it - all of it.

"That was probably one of the most impressive home runs I've ever seen," said Justin Upton , who had two doubles and drove in a run. "That ball was on a line. If it didn't run into something, it was going to keep going. It was an impressive swing. We hope to get more of that out of him.

"You want that dangerous hitter in your lineup. We welcome him with open arms because we need another guy that's capable of putting the ball out of the ball park and driving in some runs."

Saunders called the home run "unbelievable."

"I saw it off the bat and said that ball might be a double," Saunders said. "It just kept rising. It's special to see someone hit a ball that hard. I faced him a couple of times in the AL and you kind of cringe when he swings. For him to connect like that against Luke, especially in his first game here, it was awesome for us."

The 29-year-old Pena was hitting .363 with 23 doubles and a .726 slugging percentage with Reno.

"That's what we brought him up here for - to turbo it out of here," said Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson . "He's been doing it in Triple-A. After the home run, they became a little stingy with their pitches (Pena struck out in final two at-bats). He'll have to make adjustments on that. You can see what he does when he gets a fastball out over the plate. He's a strong man. I'd like to say I used to hit them that way, but I don't think so."

Saunders (4-7), who started the season 0-5, picked up his fourth victory in six starts. He held the Royals to six hits and two runs over seven innings, his 10th consecutive start pitching at least six innings.

Chris Young padded the Diamondbacks' lead with his 15th home run in the eighth after Stephen Drew walked.

Hochevar (4-8) picked up the loss and is 1-5 in his past eight starts. Hochevar, the first pick in the 2006 draft, yielded five runs on eight hits. He struck out six and walked one in seven innings, with his earned run average climbing to 4.97.

The Diamondbacks scored three runs in the seventh. Gerardo Parra stroked a two-run triple to right and scored on Ryan Roberts ' ground out. The Diamondbacks took the lead in the sixth when Upton's double scored Kelly Johnson , who had a bunt single.

Alex Gordon led the Royals with three hits, needing only a single for the cycle, and drove in both runs. He led off the game with a home run and his triple in the seventh scored Alcides Escobar , who had walked

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