Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 4/5/12
PHOENIX -- Ian Kennedy knows how difficult it can be to win 20 games, having lived through it last year. So he limits his numerical goals to those more in his control, liking being in good enough condition to make every start and log 200 or more innings. Still ... "It is something you can build off," Kennedy said last week. The construction begins Friday, when Kennedy will make his second career opening-day start against San Francisco at Chase Field. Kennedy has not minded that matchup since he joined the D-backs in 2010, when his style and demeanor drew comparisons to Greg Maddux. Kennedy beat the Giants three times in five quality starts last season, outpitching his opening-day opponent, Tim Lincecum, in a crucial Sept. 3 game in San Francisco to keep the Giants from picking up momentum in the NL West race. He also was the winning pitcher on Sept. 24, the day after the D-backs clinched the division title, to finish 3-0 with a 1.22 ERA in 37 innings against the Giants. Kennedy, 27, could become the first D-backs pitcher in 10 years to post back-to-back 20-win seasons after going 21-4 last year. It appears to be the furthest thing from his mind, although he did take time over the winter to savor what was a career year in his second full season in a rotation. "Seriously, I was just really happy. You have to step back and think how special that really is. I know that. Three guys got 20 wins last year, and to be up with those two Cy Young Award winners and an MVP, and be in contention ... I dont take it for granted," Kennedy said. The Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and Detroit's Justin Verlander were the only others with 20 victories last season. Each won a Cy Young award, and Verlander was the AL MVP. Kennedy would join Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling the only D-backs pitchers to win 20 games in consecutive seasons, with Johnson and Schilling doing it in 2001-02. Brandon Webb is the D-backs' only other 20-game winner, winning 22 in 2008. "A lot of things have to line up for it. Its not even in my sights," Kennedy said. "Wins are just something that are out of our control." San Francisco's pitchers know about that. Lincecum won 18 and 15 games in his consecutive Cy Young seasons of 2008-09 despite ERAs of 2.62 and 2.48. Matt Cain, who will start the third game of this series Sunday, has won 14, 13 and 12 games the last three seasons despite ERAs of 2.89, 3.14 and 2.88. Kennedy and Cain had very similar numbers last season, except for the win total. Lincecum told reporters this week that the Giants consider this a "statement" series after watching the D-backs celebrate the division title at their expense at Chase Field last September. Kennedy said his job will be to harness the emotions that come into play on Opening Day. "You have not pitched in an adrenaline-filled game for four or five months. It is a little different then spring training. Because it is against the Giants, at home, it is going to be a little bit more (emotional). For myself, I will try to keep it at a minimum. It is that first inning, and tying to get through the first," he said. The first inning. The eighth. One of Kennedys learned traits last season was an ability to maintain focus and control in just about every situation. He made 24 quality starts (the D-backs were 21-3 in those) and threw at least 100 pitches in 22 consecutive appearances. He was 13-1 with a 2.26 ERA after the second week of July, a constant down the stretch. "I like pitching nice and cool and calm. That is something I tried to learn the last couple of years, and I really learned it last year. When you have all that adrenaline in big games, you really have to tone it down because it can get away from you," Kennedy said. "For me, I have done pretty good at least making note of it and then focusing more." Kennedy is aware of the challenge ahead. The D-backs and Giants seem to be about equally favored to win the division in preseason polls, not that they have much bearing on the season. Many picked the defending World Series champion Giants to repeat last season, while the D-backs were not considered contenders after consecutive seasons of at least 92 losses. "Thats not going to change the way we play. People dont think we can do it again," Kennedy said. "I know 'Gibby' (manager Kirk Gibson) said, 'Why not?' Last year, he said, 'Why not us?' I say, 'Why cant we do it again?' I know the target is going to be on our backs, which happens every year, whoever wins the division. I like that. I think it falls into our team personality. I know the players in the clubhouse will respond how they need to."
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