Friday, August 5, 2011

D-backs can't erase Collmenter's early woes

By Anthony Fenech / | 8/6/2011

PHOENIX -- Josh Collmenter was on a mound, in the middle of a baseball diamond, in front of 27,215 people and he was in trouble.

"You almost feel like you're on an island out there," he said.

Two singles. A double. Two more singles. A sacrifice fly.

"It's definitely a different feeling," he said. "It seemed like whatever I threw up there just wasn't as sharp or as fine as it usually is."

And another single.

That was Collmenter's third inning Friday night, as the Dodgers chased him off that mound, scored six runs on six hits and rudely welcomed the D-backs home to Chase Field with a 7-4 defeat.

"He didn't locate the ball very good," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "They were pounding it."

The D-backs remained a half-game behind the Giants, who fell to the Phillies, 9-2, for first place in the National League West.

In the loss, Collmenter's second consecutive at the hands of the Dodgers, the six third-inning runs were the most the rookie right-hander has allowed this season, in his shortest start this season.

"Location, getting behind in counts and that's an aggressive club, so when you throw the ball over the plate, they're going to take their swings at it," he said. "I just wasn't as fine as fine with my pitches as I needed to be."

That much was evident early, when he escaped a two-hit, one-walk first inning unscathed thanks to a Gerardo Parra diving grab of an Aaron Miles line drive in left field with the bases loaded.

"I fell behind and didn't make pitches that I needed to when I needed to," Collmenter said. "They were just way too comfortable in the box and that's my responsibility to make sure they're off-balance."

And after a 1-2-3 second inning, the wheels fell off in the third.

Dee Gordon led off with a bunt single that refused to roll foul. After stealing second, he scored on a single and an error, after Justin Upton botched a Casey Blake single to right field.

Then Andre Ethier doubled off the fence in left. Then Matt Kemp singled. Then Juan Rivera singled Ethier home. Then Miles hit a sacrifice fly, James Loney singled through the hole into right field and then Collmenter's day was over.

"The ball wasn't coming out of his hand like it has in the past," Gibson said. "He's got to be better than that."

And while Collmenter was done, the damage wasn't.

Relieving him was Micah Owings, who promptly gave up a double to Rod Barajas, which plated two Dodgers and staked them to a six-run lead.

Owings ended the third and pitched four more innings of scoreless relief, allowing only two hits while walking three batters and striking out one.

"Micah threw good," Gibson said. "It was good and the way our bullpen's set up, Micah's got length. It's good to have him, but you don't want to use him."

After a spot start at home against the Rockies on July 24, Owings has made two relief appearances and tallied 70-plus pitches in each.

"I felt good and I can remember being on the flip side of that situation," Owings said. "Anytime I can come in and pick the bullpen up and the starter, I'm going to do the best that I can the longest that I can."

Meanwhile, the D-backs couldn't break through against Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley until the sixth inning, when Upton tripled to right field before Chris Young drove him in with a sacrifice fly to center.

But in the seventh, the D-backs chased the right-hander after Ryan Roberts walked, followed by two singles -- including an RBI single from Parra -- before Sean Burroughs snapped an 0-for-20 funk with a single to center.

With the bases loaded, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called on Matt Guerrier, who allowed an infield single to Willie Bloomquist to make the score 6-3; left-hander Scott Elbert, who struck out pinch-hitter Cody Ransom swinging; and then veteran reliever Mike MacDougal to face Upton with the bases loaded and one out.

After flailing at a pair of MacDougal breaking balls, Upton lined a 1-2 pitch that was speared at shortstop by Gordon, who made a fine defensive play and doubled off Burroughs at second base.

"The play Dee made, I don't know how many guys make that play," Mattingly said. "He hit a seed. That got us out of the inning and took the air out of their sails."

And thus went the D-backs' hopes of a 30th come-from-behind victory.

"We had our opportunity there," Gibson said. "Didn't get what we should have, made a baserunning mistake and got doubled off. Good play by Gordon but you have to know where to go."

Barajas hit his 10th home run to right-center in the eighth, a solo shot off Bryan Shaw for insurance. And while the D-backs answered in the eighth with a Miguel Montero sacrifice fly, scoring Young, it wasn't enough.

"We pushed them to the end, though," Gibson said. "We didn't make it easy on them, and I hope we play better tomorrow."

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