Sunday, June 5, 2011

D-backs show plenty of fight, but fall in 11

By Anthony Fenech / | 06/05/11

PHOENIX -- Despite two shutouts and a ninth-inning meltdown, the Nationals came into hot Arizona, faced a red-hot D-backs team, and escaped with a series split.

Michael Morse's grand slam to center field punctuated a five-run 11th inning after the Nationals blew a three-run ninth-inning lead, as the visitors ended the D-backs' seven-game homestand with a 9-4 victory in front of 23,129 at Chase Field.

"There's a lot of opportunities that were missed," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "It was a very intense baseball game today, it was entertaining, it was well-played, but somebody had to lose, and unfortunately, it was us."

Morse's grand slam, which came off left-handed reliever Joe Paterson and landed just above the yellow line in center, followed a bases-loaded walk to Rick Ankiel that drove in what proved to be the game's winning run in an exciting, ejection-filled contest.

"The team battled back and I didn't get the job done," Paterson said. "I just had to throw strikes versus Ankiel, and I didn't do that."

Trailing by three runs in the ninth, Arizona closed the gap with tough at-bat after tough at-bat against Nationals closer Drew Storen, who allowed back-to-back singles to Stephen Drew and Chris Young, then followed with back-to-back walks to Miguel Montero and Juan Miranda, forcing in a run.

Todd Coffey entered and allowed a sacrifice fly to Melvin Mora before being relieved by Sean Burnett, who entered and allowed a pinch-hit RBI groundout to Xavier Nady -- who beat out a game-ending double-play by half a step -- to tie the game.

"They had great at-bats," Gibson said. "The guys played hard, they didn't give in and it was a good ballgame. We just didn't come out on top when it was all said and done."

Gibson watched the final three innings from his office in the clubhouse after being the fourth ejection of first-base umpire Gary Darling's crew in the eighth inning, three innings after the trading of hit-by-pitches throughout the series culminated in a warning from home-plate umpire Rob Drake.

Gibson was ejected along with relief pitcher Esmerling Vazquez, who hit and drew the ire of Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa.

"Batters get hit in games," Gibson said. "It was a good baseball game, that's the way I look at it. There was no intent there -- we were playing baseball. I had no problem. The umpires did what they thought was right and we play by the rules."

One batter later, after Aaron Heilman was brought in from the bullpen, Wilson Ramos hit a three-run home run to left field for a 4-1 Nationals lead, took a leisurely stroll around the bases and drew the ire of D-backs third-base coach Matt Williams.

"It was no big deal," Gibson said. "None of it is offensive to me."

A warning was issued to D-backs starting pitcher Ian Kennedy in the fifth inning after he hit Jayson Werth on the left shoulder, the third hit-by-pitch for Werth of the four-game series.

"In Werth's case, you have to crowd him," Gibson said. "We're not throwing at him, we're trying to throw him tight. Espinosa and Morse the same way, these guys are big and they like to get their arms out over the plate, so you have to pitch them in."

Nationals starter Jason Marquis and manager Jim Riggleman were ejected in the sixth after Marquis hit Justin Upton, his fourth hit-by-pitch of the series.

"I don't think there was necessarily intent, everybody's trying to win a ballgame," Upton said. "But at some point, the pitcher has to hit his spot. If you're trying to come in and show me in, then hit the mitt. Getting hit [four] times in three days is pretty ridiculous."

Riggleman agreed that there was no intent on Washington's part.

"I can promise you we did not one time have any intent to hit Upton," he said. "I feel terrible that he got hit four times. We didn't want to hit him. It's freakish that the same guy kept getting hit."

After the ejection, Tyler Clippard was summoned from the bullpen with a one-run lead, one out and runners on first and second, and he struck out Stephen Drew and Chris Young to escape any damage.

Clippard pitched 2 1/3 superb innings of relief, striking out six and allowing one run on one hit -- a Kelly Johnson solo home run in the eighth -- before being relieved by Storen.

Until Johnson's home run, his 11th of the season, the D-backs were limited to three hits in the game. They finished with six.

Pitching under the weather, Kennedy went seven innings, allowed one run on five hits, struck out three and walked three.

"Personally, I felt pretty bad," he said about battling the flu for a week. "I just tried to get as many innings as I could out of myself."

Werth opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the second inning, scoring Roger Bernadina, who had three hits on the game.

The D-backs finished their homestand with a 4-3 record and sit a half-game behind the Giants in the National League West.

"We played tough," Upton said. "We were battling, grinding, and we never feel like the game's over. We were able to put together a rally, we fought, they just came out on top."

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