Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at 3:49 p.m.
After a dramatic extra-inning win on Tuesday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks came out swinging on Wednesday afternoon in the series finale and homestand-closing game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, for every bit of goodwill the D-Backs generated Wednesday, they took a step back in a 12-7 loss to the Cards.
As I sat at the game, basking in the sun (enjoy the open roof while you can, fans) and loving that 28 mph wind, I took a couple of positives (but only a couple) from the game.
The first was Justin Upton's at-bat in the fifth inning. The 21-year-old right fielder has looked totally overmatched in this young season, and some people around town have been wondering whether he needs more time in the minor leagues. After all, Upton (pictured) is just 21 years old and in the majors well ahead of most of his peers.
But heading into this particular at-bat, he was 1 for 17 with seven strikeouts -- simply terrible. With center fielder Chris Young on base, Upton worked the count full against Cards starter Joel Piñiero before drilling a fastball -- what else would it be? At this point, the guy can't hit anything that breaks. He hit it to the deepest part of Chase Field, driving in Young. It was a great at-bat for a struggling kid with a ton of upside. Of course, the speedy Upton should've had a stand-up triple, but he jogged to first base after crushing the pitch, thinking it was a homer. He wound up with a double. Lame.
The other big positive is that third baseman and free swinger Mark Reynolds may have found his power stroke, after blasting his second homer in as many days. Reynolds' two-run home run in the third cut the score to 6-4. Of course, the error-prone infielder let speed-challenged Cardinals shortstop Khalil Greene reach base three innings later on a routine grounder. Reynolds fielded the ball cleanly but launched it over first baseman Chad Tracy's outstretched arm, allowing Greene to pull up at second. Greene would eventually score, and later in the inning, second baseman Felipe Lopez also booted a routine grounder up the middle. Dismal D from the D-Backs.
Jon Garland, getting his second start as a D-Back after signing as a free agent over the winter, was roughed up by a solid Cardinals lineup. Garland, an integral part of the White Sox's 2005 championship team, looked darn good in his first start but pretty much had nothing going on Wednesday. In just 3.2 innings, he walked five, gave up seven hits, seven runs, and struck out no Cards. No need to panic here; Garland's a successful veteran who just ran into a patient, powerful, and disciplined Cardinals lineup.
Credit the D-Backs for chipping away at the Cards' lead after Garland's rotten start. Unfortunately, though, the bullpen and defense let this one get out of hand when the Cards scored four more in the 6th off of Yusmiero Petit and one more in 8th off Bobby Korecky. In seven innings of work this year, Petit's given up six runs.
So the Diamondbacks open the season with a 3-win, 6-loss homestand. They lose two out of three each to a below-average team (Rockies) and a decent team (Dodgers) and an okay team (Cards). The offense is wildly inconsistent, the defense is terrible, and the starting pitching is without their ace for the time being. It's too early too panic, but it's not too early to worry.
The D-Backs are off Thursday and open a three-game series against division rivals the San Francisco Giants on Friday. Here's how the series stacks up:
Friday: Dan Haren vs. Jonathan Sanchez, 7:15 p.m. (Fox Sports Net Arizona)
Saturday: Doug Davis vs. Tim Lincecum, 1:05 p.m. (no TV)
Sunday: Max Scherzer vs. Randy Johnson, 1:05 p.m. (Fox Sports Net Arizona)