Saturday, August 6, 2011

D-backs, Saunders drop chance to grab first

By Anthony Fenech / | 08/06/11

PHOENIX -- Another night, another missed opportunity.

For the second consecutive night on Saturday, the D-backs failed to take hold of first place in the National League West as the Giants continued to lose and the Dodgers continued to play spoiler with a 5-3 victory in front of 33,239 at Chase Field.

"It's unfortunate for us that we've lost three in a row," bench coach Alan Trammell said. "We've had an opportunity."

Off the field, Trammell held the reins for the majority of the game after manager Kirk Gibson exited with an illness early on.

"Right before the game, he told me he was having trouble," Trammell said. "He was there into the first inning, maybe the second and then he said, 'I gotta go.'"

But on the field, the D-backs were run over by the Dodgers' offense, couldn't score runs against a recent callup and, for the second time in as many days, climbed back but couldn't come back.

"We had a couple of opportunities tonight, but we're not clicking right now," Trammell said.

Nathan Eovaldi, 21, making his Major League debut for the Dodgers, withstood some early adversity and matched left-hander Joe Saunders through five innings.

In the second, Eovaldi loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a single before Saunders slapped a two-out ground ball through the right side of the infield to score a pair of runs and give the D-backs a 2-1 lead.

"I needed some Band-Aids," Saunders said. "I made some good pitches and they hit some balls that weren't hit very hard, but you tip your cap to them, and they put the ball in some absolutely perfect spots."

But the Dodgers tied the score an inning later after Eovaldi led off the third with a single and scored three batters later on an Andre Ethier groundout to second.

Eovaldi finished with five innings pitched, allowed two runs on four hits, walked a pair and struck out seven.

"He attacked for the most part, he threw the ball over the plate and his stuff was really good," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He handled himself well."

Los Angeles took control in the sixth.

After allowing a leadoff single to Ethier, Saunders retired Matt Kemp before shortstop Willie Bloomquist couldn't hang on to a possible inning-ending double-play ball off the bat of Juan Rivera.

Aaron Miles followed with a bloop single to center for a lead the Dodgers wouldn't surrender, and Saunders' day was over.

"Unfortunately, there was a little infield hit and a bloop," Trammell said. "It's not his fault. He was up in the high 90s, [Rod Barajas] was 2-for-2 off of him and that was just my decision to possibly change pitchers and get a ground ball."

Saunders finished with 5 1/3 innings pitched, allowing four runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking one to fall under the .500 mark at 8-9.

"I can't really explain it, honestly," Saunders said. "You make your pitch, you do your job and then they still get a hit. You just have to try to turn the page and go after the next guy. You can't really focus on the last hitter."

Trammell, who relieved Saunders with right-hander Brad Ziegler looking for a double-play ground ball, instead saw Barajas deliver his third hit of the game to center field.

"With Barajas already being 2-for-2 off of [Saunders], I was thinking that Ziegler might get a ground ball with runners on first and third," Trammell said. "Didn't happen."

Ziegler retired the next batter before walking pinch-hitter Trent Oeltjen to load the bases and striking out Jamey Carroll to escape further damage.

Carroll entered the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the third inning after shortstop Dee Gordon injured his shoulder tagging Kelly Johnson in a rundown. He is listed as day to day.

The Dodgers tacked on a run in the seventh before the D-backs, true to form, tried to muster a comeback.

In the eighth, Justin Upton drove home Bloomquist with a two-out double to the right-center-field gap to cut the deficit to 5-3.

One batter later, Chris Young just missed a game-tying two-run home run to left as the ball died at the warning track. In the ninth, Ryan Roberts doubled to put the potential tying run at the plate, but he was stranded on two groundouts.

"We fall behind, we come back, we fall behind, we come back," Trammell said. "It's tough to come back all the time."

The pair of series-opening losses sets up a tough task for the D-backs to salvage a game against the third-place Dodgers with one of the league's best pitchers, left-hander Clayton Kershaw (13-4, 2.68 ERA), starting on Sunday.

Arizona counters in the matinee with right-hander Ian Kennedy (13-3, 3.17), who is 2-1 against the Dodgers in his career.

"We're in early August and, yes, people are looking," Trammell said. "You're looking, we're looking, everybody in baseball's looking, but we really have to take care of the business at hand."

No comments: