Joe Saunders’ Solid Effort Wasted as D’Backs Bats Silenced in Loss

Erik Kratz belted a home run, and Roy Halladay pitched seven strong innings as the Philadephia Phillies ended the Arizona Diamondbacks’ four game winning streak with a 3-0 shutout win at Citizen’s Bank Park Saturday night. Joe Saunders pitched well for Arizona, but it was for naught as his teammates just couldn’t get their bats going to pick him up.

The game had all the feel of a pitcher’s duel early on, as Saunders and Halladay traded strong innings back and forth. The only hiccups came on Joe’s part, as he gave up a solo home run to Kratz in the third inning. The massive 6’5” catcher, filling in for All-Star Carlos Ruiz, looked strong the entire game, but his homer wasn’t exactly a tape measure blast, as it barely cleared the left field wall on a frozen rope.

The other stumble for Saunders came when he issued a bases loaded walk in the fourth inning to Kratz, but other than that he looked largely in command of his pitches, and he proved yet again that GM Kevin Towers was correct in not dealing him at the trade deadline. He also continued a run of strong starting pitching by the team as they try to claw their way back into the NL West race.

On the hitting side of things, there were a few positives for the team despite them only being able to scratch out four hits. Justin Upton looked fairly comfortable at the plate, reaching twice on a single he blistered up the middle and on a walk. Ever since he has moved into the fifth spot in the order, he has started to square the ball up better, has worked more counts, and has exhibited better fundamentals in his swing than he did when he was batting third.

His hit in the second inning was a perfect representation of that. Halladay threw a hard fastball on the inner half of the plate, and it tailed in further on Upton. Not letting that phase him, he cleared his body, got the head of the bat on the ball, and lashed it back up the middle for a hit. It may not have been a tremendous home run, but it was a great piece of hitting, and it shows the comfort level that Upton is finally achieving at the dish in a critical point of the season for the Diamondbacks.

The other positive sign was that Stephen Drew had a good game batting in the second spot in the order, taking the place of the resting Aaron Hill. He did strike out in the game, but he also picked up two hits, and once again raised the hopes of Diamondback fans who are hopeful that his recent run of bad luck at the plate will start to fade. His BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) has been woefully low, and he is one of the unluckiest in baseball in terms of getting hits to fall. Last year, he had a .313 average on balls in play, but this season, his average is over 70 points lower.

Unfortunately for Arizona, they were undone by their inability to get hits in the situations that they had runners in scoring position, with a notable failure being Jason Kubel striking out with a runner on third base and one out. Miguel Montero also failed in his chance to drive in a run, but he is still on a pretty good roll himself, getting on base in 25 of his last 42 plate appearances.

At any rate, the Diamondbacks will try to get things back together tomorrow as they face the Phillies in the rubber match of their three game set. Cliff Lee, still the subject of trade rumors, will take the hill for Philadelphia and he will be opposed by Trevor Cahill. The game starts at 10am Arizona time, and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona.

 

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