On a night when the story should have belonged to guys like Jason Kubel and Miguel Montero, the Arizona Diamondbacks once again let a common refrain ring through Chase Field: this team just can’t get it done on their home turf. They fell to 8-15 on the season despite Kubel socking a home run on his 30th birthday, and they dropped the first game of a three-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers 7-1. Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, and Corey Hart all went deep for the Brewers, and that was all they needed to roll on Friday.
The night was never going to be easy for the Diamondbacks, but they didn’t do themselves any favors, especially starter Ian Kennedy. He has been struggling mightily as of late, and that trend continued in a big way on Friday. After looking really sharp in the first few innings of the game, he started to get a little too cute, and it came back to bite him in the fourth inning. He allowed Nyjer Morgan to get on-base to lead off the inning, but then he was able to get to second base when Kennedy committed his fourth balk of the season when facing Braun.
Balks are always very difficult for umpires to call, and just about no umpire calls it the same as anyone else does, but there is a common thread that weaves through all of them: when he is pitching from the stretch, he brings his glove in front of his face and chest, and he does not come to a complete stop all of the time, which is required by the rule book. It’s almost as though he is rushing through his motion in order to keep baserunners off kilter, but that is still no excuse for making the same mistake over and over again. Charles Nagy is going to have to work with Kennedy even more on preventing that from happening, because he can’t be giving up extra bases to guys just by being careless, and it was made even worse by the fact that he gave up a home run to Braun a few pitches later.
The Diamondbacks were also undone by the fact that they were facing Yovani Gallardo, who has had nothing but success in his career against Arizona. Over the years, Gallardo has only allowed more than one earned run ONCE against the D’Backs, and in that outing he allowed a whole two earned runs. That’s why it was so crucial when Kennedy coughed up a second inning home run to Weeks, because it put the onus squarely on the Diamondback offense to solve Gallardo, which they were once again unable to do.
There were really only two positives in the game, and one of those belonged to Brad Ziegler. He came in the top of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs, and just has he has done just about the whole year, he retired Braun to end the inning. He has stranded 15 of the 19 runners that he has inherited this year, and if there was ever a bullpen that needed that kind of shutdown presence in key situations, it would be this one. Even guys like Josh Collmenter (who allowed two runs Friday) have been unreliable for the Diamondbacks, so Ziegler’s successes shine even more.
The other positive was that Justin Upton once again looked dialed in at the plate. He went 1-for-3 in the game, including a bunt single to kick off the bottom of the 7th inning that showed that he is really confident in whatever decisions he is making. In addition to that, he also drew a walk, so amid all the struggles of this offense (a unit that went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position tonight), Upton’s resurgence has got to be viewed as a key to getting things going again.
Ultimately though, this team continues to be done in my blown opportunities. In addition to the rotten rate of success (none) with runners in scoring position, the team blew several key situations that could have resulted in scoring, including the seventh inning, which saw them get the first two runners on-base. Chris Young, who has been golden in those situations this year at a 7-of-18 clip coming into the game, grounded into a double play and Lyle Overbay struck out to strand Upton at third.
The game simply was an all-around poor effort for Arizona, and they are going to have to do a lot better than that Saturday night when they face Zack Greinke at 7:10pm MST. They will put Wade Miley on the mound to oppose him, and the game will be televised locally on Fox Sports Arizona.