Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 2:56 p.m.
Jon Rauch: Not as bad as Chad Qualls, who blew his fourth save of the season Thursday.
Really? The Arizona Diamondbacks' bullpen -- nay, their closer! -- let this one get away? Really?! Forget about Clay Zavada's losing Thursday's game, a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds, in the 10th inning. No, the goat here is closer Chad Qualls, who couldn't make Doug Davis' 2-1 lead hold up in the bottom of the ninth, blowing his fourth save of the season. Oh, to have Jose Valverde back in a D-Backs uniform . . .
Qualls, the D-Backs' sorry excuse for a closer, now has an earned-run average of 4.50 to go along with his 13 saves and 28 strikeouts. Here are the ERA, save, and strikeout totals of the other closers in the National League West:
• Heath Bell (Padres) -- 1.34, 22, 36
• Jonathan Broxton (Dodgers) -- 2.15, 19, 62
• Huston Street (Rockies) -- 2.91, 19, 39
• Brian Wilson (Giants) -- 3.50, 21, 39
It's no wonder the D-Backs are dead last in their division and probably not digging themselves out of their hole anytime soon. With Thursday's loss, the team dropped to 31-48. Only the Indians (49) and Nationals (54) have more losses. And the Indians have already begun to purge big-contract players. Can the D-Backs be far behind?
And while we're talking about potential changes, is it within the realm of possibility that Qualls could lose his job? Jon Rauch, the subject of so much scorn in the first two months of the season, has been more or less lights out recently. In June, Rauch gave up just three earned runs in 13 innings of work and struck out seven batters. Plus, he has experience as a closer. In 2008, he saved 18 games.
Bright spots on Thursday? Sure, there were a couple. Mark Reynolds further proved himself to be one of the top two or three slugging third-basemen in the game by hitting his 22nd home run, a solo shot. The 26-year-old leads all third-basemen in homers. His 57 runs batted in trail only the higher-profile future superstar Evan Longoria. And his 13 stolen bases trail only Chone Figgins and David Wright, neither of whom have shown any power this year. Granted, Alex Rodriguez missed the first six weeks of the season, so his numbers would be up there with Reynolds, but the point is: Reynolds is a bona fide superstar-in-the-making. If he played in New York, Boston, Chicago, or L.A., he'd be a star already.
Thursday's other bright spot was starting pitcher Doug Davis. The soft-throwing lefty didn't exactly mow the Reds' lineup down, but he did pitch his way out of several jams. In all, the veteran went seven solid innings, allowing only one run and striking out five. He gave up seven hits and walked four but really minimized the damage, as he's done pretty consistently this year. Davis lowered his ERA to a very respectable 3.15. He's now pitched seven innings in each of this past three starts and has given up only two earned runs in those starts. Another great performance wasted by the bullpen.
So, the D-Backs now head to Denver for a weekend series with the resurgent Rockies. The Rox are a much different team from when the D-Backs faced them several times in April. For one, they have a new manager in Jim Tracy, who replaced the terminated Clint Hurdle. For another, the Rockies' starting pitching, which appeared less-than-imposing coming out of spring training has been pretty solid lately. Then there's the aforementioned Huston Street, shutting down everything in sight with games on the line. The offense is a typical Rockies offense: lots of sluggers surrounding the ageless hitting wonder named Todd Helton.
As far as the D-Backs go, they'll offer up Yusmeiro Petit on Saturday instead of Billy Buckner, who was sent back down to the minors for more seasoning. Petit has been out of action since May 9 with a sore shoulder. Don't get too excited about his return: In five rehab starts, the 24-year-old righty was 0-1 with a 6.89 ERA.
Here's how the series shakes out:
Friday: Max Scherzer (5-5, 3.67 ERA, 83 K in 83.1 innings) vs. Jorge De La Rosa (4-7, 5.64, 87 K in 81.1 innings), 5:10 p.m.
Saturday: Yusmeiro Petit (0-3, 8.03) vs. Aaron Cook (8-3, 3.77), 5:10 p.m.
Sunday: Dan Haren (7-5, 2.19, 113 K and 15 BB in 115 innnings) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (6-7, 3.75), 12:10 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR 6220-AM. More info: www.dbacks.com