If someone had told you that Ian Kennedy would retire the last 13 batters he faced and would pitch seven innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night, you undoubtedly would have assumed that Arizona would have had a great shot at winning that contest. Unfortunately for you, you would be wrong.
Carlos Beltran belted a two-run home run in the first inning and smacked a grand slam in the second to give St. Louis a 6-0 lead, and despite Kennedy shutting the door on any more Cardinal offense, the Diamondbacks simply had no answer for Jake Westbrook, who also pitched seven innings and struck out eight batters. A late double by Miguel Montero did give the Diamondbacks a run in the 9th inning, but it wasn’t enough as they lost 6-1 for their sixth defeat in their last seven games.
The game itself was largely uneventful aside from the first two innings and Arizona’s last minute gasp for air. Westbrook cruised for the most part, as did Kennedy, and both offenses seemed content to try to hit pitcher’s pitches and didn’t really do a whole lot of count working. The only Diamondback that had any real success in the game was Aaron Hill, who had three hits. Three other players had one hit apiece, and for the most part no one really played with the sense of urgency that one would figure a team would need when facing the defending World Series Champions.
That lack of real push by the Diamondbacks to get back in this game underscores a problem that has been seeming to plague this team in recent games. Despite starting off their recent road trip in strong fashion, the team has been just kind of waiting for a hero to emerge, and no one is really stepping up and taking the reins to do so.
Justin Upton would be one guy that you would assume would be the guy to put the team on his back, but he has been struggling for the entirety of this season. He did have a hand injury that he tried playing through early on, but even after sitting out for a few games and showing signs of potentially busting out, Upton has not been up to the task. He is currently hitting about 40 points below his career batting average, has only driven in nine runs despite getting ample opportunities in the three spot in the order, and is striking out in nearly 1 of every 3 at-bats. All of these numbers wouldn’t be so bad perhaps if Chris Young were healthy and in the lineup, but he isn’t, so they are even more glaring.
Another guy who may not have the MVP-type expectations that Upton now carries is Paul Goldschmidt. Many folks projected him to have the type of power needed to mash 35-40 home runs a season, but despite getting ample playing time at the beginning of the year, he has exactly one home run nearly a fifth of the way into the season. He is averaging about a strikeout a game as well, but in his defense, he has looked better in recent games. Tuesday wasn’t one of those, but the reality of matters is that he is still a young kid with a lot of growing to do, and it may be time for Kirk Gibson to let him sit for a little while in favor of Lyle Overbay.
Either way you slice it, the Diamondbacks need to start getting some pieces back if they are going to contend for the NL West title. Not a lot of teams could sustain the loss of their starting center fielder, shortstop, and young rotation stud, so it isn’t surprising that the Diamondbacks have been unable to do so up to this point. They are eventually going to need to see some more production from a couple of key guys as well, but when Stephen Drew, Young, and Daniel Hudson return to the swing of things, it could be a completely different ballgame in a division that is still winnable.
Player of the Game: Ian Kennedy
In addition to the 13 straight retired batters, Kennedy performed another invaluable service to the team on Tuesday night: he gave the bullpen a rest. Yes, Wade Miley has been very good in his limited starts with the team, but if he struggles, the guys in the pen will at least be well rested and equipped to handle the call to duty if needed in Wednesday’s series finale.
That willingness to continue plugging away despite giving up six runs in the first two innings reinforces the notion that Kennedy is the team’s ace, and his team-first attitude will hopefully be infectious on the rest of the squad.