A weekend full of high hopes ended on a low note for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who lost a three-game series to the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. In a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of situation, the D-backs moved within two games of the NL West leaders on Friday, but after losing the next two, they are now four games behind San Francisco.
On Friday night, Justin Upton cracked his 100th homerun (not long before his older brother, B.J., accomplished the same feat) in a 4-2 win to kick off the series. From there, the D-Backs' four-game hot streak met a dampening end in the form of two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, the Phillies' right-handed ace. Still, Saturday's 0-3 loss must have been easier to bear than the 4-5 defeat on Sunday night, cinched by Ryan Howard's walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
Ian Kennedy pitched six innings on Friday, allowing seven hits and two runs. The performance got the job done, and that's about all. Takashi Saito and David Hernandez each threw an inning before closer J.J. Putz chalked up his 20th save in 23 tries.
In addition to Upton's homer, Jason Kubel recorded his 23rd home run this season in the ninth. The D-backs' two other runs came in the fourth with a Paul Goldschimidt sacrifice fly and a singly by Chris Johnson to allow Upton to score. The win was Arizona's fourth in a row -- but the streak ended there. An anticlimactic finale to the momentum the team gained sweeping the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Saturday, left-handed veteran Joe Saunders faced Philadelphia's finest: Roy Halladay. The pitcher struck out five in seven innings and the under-pressure Snakes managed to get just four hits all night. Even when Halladay seemed to struggle with finding the zone, D-backs batters came out empty-handed.
Saunders pitched into the seventh, but left with two outs remaining after giving up two singles to Nate Schierholtz and pinch-hitter Ty Wigginton. He allowed two runs on six hits before reliever Brad Zeigler took over on the mound.
Stephen Drew claimed two of the D-Backs four hits that night, one of the only players from Arizona to muster anything against Halladay's spot-on performance. The loss cost Arizona some crucial ground in the NL West race as the San Francisco Giants advanced three games on them in the standings.
Sunday started off looking like Arizona would be able to save the series despite Saturday's loss. Three D-Backs went deep, including Chris Johnson and Stephen Drew, who hit a back-to-back pair in the second.
Arizona maintained a 4-3 lead into the bottom on the eighth, but in a strange turn of events managed to lose not only the game, but also the series and two players in the final minutes of the game.
In the eighth, David Hernandez struck out the first two batters but then allowed John Mayberry Jr. to reach base on an infield single. He advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch. Then Domonic Brown managed a hit that glanced off Hernandez's right calf and although the pitcher attempted the flip to first, the ball hit the runner instead -- costing him an error and allowing Mayberry just enough room to score.
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On the next play, catcher Henry Blanco injured his left thumb when Mayberry slid into his glove. The injury could be season-ending if it's as severe as a torn ligament. He has an MRI scheduled today. Hernandez also left after one more batter, citing difficulty planting his leg.
The night closed on a bases-loaded line-drive single from Ryan Howard. Reliever Josh Collmenter gave up a single to Juan Pierre, followed by Nate Schierholtz' sacrifice fly and single to Lance. Collmenter intentionally walked Chase Utley to fill the bases and reach Ryan Howard, who delivered the final blow.
Now the snakes head to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates. With upcoming series against the Pirates, National and Cardinals, Arizona will need to buckle down and turn the tides on their inability to gain any sustained momentum this season.
Today, left-hander Wade Miley will face Pirates leftie Erik Bedard (5-12, 4.83). First pitch from PNC Park at 4:05 p.m. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: 620 AM, 106.9 FM, 710 AM.