Diamondbacks fall to Reds
The all-too-familiar refrain which played out for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night at Chase Field -- missed scoring opportunities and the squandering of another quality pitching performance -- was accompanied by a backing chorus in boo flat from the paying customers.
The crowd of 24,835 that watched the last-place Diamondbacks lose 3-1 to the Cincinnati Reds voiced its displeasure with a seldom-heard vehemence after the home team failed to score with runners on first and third and nobody out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
One thing that emerged on the bright side for the 12 th-year Phoenix franchise: You know you’ve arrived as a major-league city when your fans have so proficiently honed their ability to jeer in derision, shield their eyes in frustration and shake their heads in disgust when the situation warrants it.
With all of the rally-killing popups, strikeouts and base-running blunders they’ve been forced to endure this season, backers of the Diamondbacks are developing a skill-set of cynicism that someday might enable them to ascend to the pinnacle of lament alongside their brethren from championship-starved locales like Cleveland and the north side of Chicago.
If D-backs fans ever make it to the woebegone peak of the hard-luck Mount Everest, it will be games like Tuesday’s that will lead them there.
Arizona right-hander Dan Haren pitched brilliantly for his eighth consecutive start, but he was charged with another undeserved loss. While Haren carries an All-Star-caliber (and potential Cy Young Award-worthy) earned-run average of 2.09, his record fell to a deceiving 3-4.
Haren worked seven innings against Cincinnati, allowing three runs on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts. His counterpart Micah Owings, a former Diamondback who is in his first season with the Reds, also pitched seven innings (plus one significant batter in the eighth). Owings (3-3, 4.33 ERA) gave up one run on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
The difference was that the Reds made the most of their opportunities while the Diamondbacks could not capitalize upon theirs.
Brandon Phillips was the man who made things happen for Cincinnati. When the Reds scored twice in the top of the fourth inning, the 27-year-old second baseman was in the middle of the rally, driving in the game’s first run with a single to left field, hustling to third on a base hit by Jay Bruce and scoring on a sacrifice fly by Ramon Hernandez. In the top of the fifth, Phillips extended the Reds’ lead to 3-0 when he crushed a 452-foot homer off the facing of the second deck in left-center.
The Diamondbacks wasted a chance to score in the bottom of the fourth, when Felipe Lopez and Mark Reynolds walked but were stranded on the base-paths. The nonproductive inning served as a prelude to the game-defining sixth, which began with optimism and ended with dejection.
Haren led off the bottom of the sixth by hitting a chopper in front of home plate. Owings charged the ball, fielded it and airmailed it over the first baseman’s head, with Haren ending up on second on the infield single and throwing error. Lopez then lined a single to center field to put runners on first and third with nobody out. The D-backs’ scoring threat began to unravel when Miguel Montero hit a 3-1 pitch for a popup to the center of the infield that was caught by the shortstop. The next batter, Justin Upton, was called out on strikes, taking three consecutive pitches in the strike zone. Reynolds then ended the inning by flying out to shallow right field.
As the D-backs prepared to take their positions for the top of the seventh, a cascade of boos reverberated throughout Chase Field.
While the prevailing aura of contentiousness at the ballpark did not do much to prod the listless Diamondbacks, the visiting Reds decided to further stir things up in the eighth, when Phillips took exception to being pitched high and slightly inside by Diamondbacks reliever Jon Rauch.
Phillips bailed out of the way of an 0-1 pitch that was perhaps an inch or two off the inside corner. On the next offering, Phillips spun away from a pitch that caromed off his bat and rolled down the first-base line for an easy groundout. Phillips stared out at Rauch as the teams left the field.
The Reds felt the need for immediate retaliation in the bottom of the eighth, as Owings drilled Ryan Roberts on the elbow with his first delivery. Owings was subsequently relieved by Arthur Rhodes, and Roberts left the game with an elbow injury. The Diamondbacks ended up tallying their only run of the game thanks to the Reds’ purpose pitch, as Lopez lined the first offering from Rhodes for an RBI double to drive in pinch runner Josh Wilson.
The inning would end in characteristic exasperation for the D-backs, who stranded Lopez at second and Reynolds at first after a walk by Reynolds put the potential tying run on base.
The bottom of the ninth brought more of the same for the Desert Snakes, who got a two-out single by Augie Ojeda and a subsequent walk by Stephen Drew but failed to score. Cincinnati right-hander Francisco Cordero closed out his 10 th save in 10 chances when he retired Lopez on a ground ball to the first baseman to end the game.
With the defeat, the Diamondbacks fell to 13-21 on the season. They have lost four out of five since A.J. Hinch took over as manager to replace the deposed Bob Melvin, who was fired last Thursday night.
By: Tom Kessler
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