Whether you want to credit the fundamental lapses of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night, JJ Putz‘s inability to retire batters effectively, or Mike Matheny’s managerial prowess, the story was still the same at Chase Field. The St. Louis Cardinals exploded for seven more runs and downed the Diamondbacks 7-2 and handed Arizona their first sweep on home turf since August of 2010.
Matt Holliday and Allan Craig both drove in two runs for the Redbirds, and Matt Carpenter drove in two runs in a pinch hitting appearance in the sixth inning. For the Diamondbacks, Aaron Hill and Wade Miley picked up RBI in the loss.
Before we get to the gruesome post-mortem of what exactly befell Arizona in this game, we will focus briefly on the couple of positive things that happened in the game. Bryan Shaw, Brad Ziegler, and David Hernandez all did very solid work out of the bullpen and prevented the Cardinals from extending their lead, and Miley himself was kind of a tough luck loser in this one. He was the victim of a few instances of the Diamondbacks making poor decisions on the diamond, but the 10 hits he gave up eventually did him in.
One of those hits was a double that Carpenter hit that provided the game’s winning margin. Kyle Lohse had only 73 pitches on his ledger when Matheny decided to go for the kill and pinch-hit for him. Obviously, if it hadn’t worked out he would have burned an extra bat from his bench for nothing, but the result was positive, and it was more piece of evidence that Matheny is an early candidate for Manager of the Year in the National League.
The bottom half of the Arizona order also did some damage tonight, with Lyle Overbay going 3-for-4 in place of the slumping Paul Goldschmidt and Ryan Roberts going 3-for-3 with a walk. In addition to Miley’s RBI single in the second inning, the ninth spot in the order also produced when AJ Pollock came up in the bottom of the ninth inning, working the count full and dinking a single past the pitcher’s mound when his bat shattered. Of course, he wouldn’t have made that happen if he hadn’t been flying out of the batter’s box, and the hustle was much appreciated on a night when so much went wrong for the Diamondbacks.
Unfortunately for Arizona, those were all of the positives that came out of the contest. There were several times in the game that they showed a lack of grasp of the fundamentals of baseball, and these instances likely will cause manager Kirk Gibson to take a long, hard hike up Camelback Mountain tomorrow afternoon with the team having an off-day.
Here’s the rundown of the ugliness:
-In the bottom of the fourth, Roberts laced a single to center field, and third base coach Matt Williams sent Overbay home. Now, Lyle isn’t the fastest runner in the world, but with the positioning of Shane Robinson, it was a good send by Williams. It took a perfect throw, and Robinson came through with that, but Overbay still could have been safe if he had slid into home. Instead, he ran right back catcher Tony Cruz, who slapped the tag on him just in the nick of time, and the inning unceremoniously ended without the Diamondbacks taking the lead, and that would prove costly.
-In the top of the fifth inning, there were horrible lapses in judgment galore. First, you had Cardinals starter Lohse standing up when running to third base, and he nearly had to leave the game with a pulled hamstring.
On that same play, center fielder Gerardo Parra threw to third base despite speedster Rafael Furcal being on first with a single. He could have easily made it to second base, taken the double play out of order, and screwed up the inning completely. It ended up being an error by Roberts that cost the Diamondbacks the run, but that decision by Parra definitely could have led to it if circumstances had been slightly different.
Yes, Roberts’ boot also qualifies as a fundamental lapse. He stood still on a ball hit to him, and the hop simply ate him up. If he had taken a step or two forward, he likely would have fielded the ball cleanly and ended the inning.
-In the bottom of the fifth, the Diamondbacks had runners on first and second with one out, and Justin Upton strode to the plate. Instead of working the count and trying to get a good pitch, Upton swung at the first offering, and hit a weak ground ball to shortstop that resulted in a double play and ended the inning.
In addition to the lack of tactics involved, Upton’s approach was all wrong and indicative of how badly he is struggling at the plate. The pitch was outside, but instead of trying to drive it to right field, he attempted to pull it and ended up rolling over the top of the ball. Yes, decisions at the plate are split second things, but when you have a guy making the wrong instinctual decision, it’s showing that he is need of some type of an adjustment.
Paging Don Baylor….
-Finally, the Diamondbacks had the bases loaded with no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Despite being down five runs, they had a realistic shot to at least put a scare into the Cardinals, but Jason Motte came in and slammed the door. He struck out Parra, and Willie Bloomquist grounded into a double play to end the game. No runs, no success, and no victory.
The Diamondbacks will take a much needed day off tomorrow and get away from the diamond to do whatever it is they need to do to shake out of their current funk. They are mired in their SECOND five game home losing streak of the year, and they have won just two of their last 12 games at home after winning their first four in Phoenix. All of these things need to be pushed out of their minds, and fans of the team have to hope against hope that they are able to do so.