One day after the Arizona Diamondbacks' apocalyptic meltdown in Los Angeles, they came out swinging Wednesday night but, unfortunately, ran into the Dodgers' version of the Terminator, flame-throwing righthander Chad Billingsley. The D-Backs' Jon Garland gave a particularly gutty performance, matching Billingsley pitch for pitch, but timely hitting carried the Dodgers to a 1-0 win.
Most D-Backs fan will talk today about what could've been this week in L.A. Winning two out of three against the leaders of the NL West was in the D-Backs' grips and a series sweep suddenly seemed very possible -- all until Tuesday night's eighth-inning debacle, in which they gave up five ginormous runs. Now, the team heads down the coast to San Diego trailing the Dodgers by 13.5 games and, worse, are 7.5 games out in the NL wild card race.
It's not as though the D-Backs played poorly on Wednesday night -- or in the series, in general. Or even under their new skipper, A.J. Hinch, for that matter. But what separates the D-Backs from a winning team like the Dodgers became painfully obvious on Wednesday night: situational hitting. Trailing 1-0 and with runners on first and third, and only one out, in the top of the eighth inning, catcher Miguel Montero hit weakly into a double play to end the inning. How hard is it to hit a sacrifice fly, Miggy?
And in the sixth inning with the game still scoreless, Justin Upton led off the inning with a walk and then stole second as Stephen Drew struck out looking. Then, Mark Reynolds, arguably the team's only other legitimate offensive weapon besides Upton, popped up meagerly to shallow right field. And it was on the second pitch of the at-bat. Come on, Mark, it was your third at-bat of the game against Billingsley, who had already thrown about 100 pitches at that point, and you take a so-so hack at the second pitch? Ugh, you know better. Chris Young fouled out to first base to end the inning. (On June 4, is it now late enough in the season to admit to ourselves that Young is not going to get any better? Please send this kid to the minors to work out his problems. He's got a ton of talent, but he's not deserving of a major-league roster spot at this point in time.)
And, finally, in the fourth inning, the D-Backs loaded the bases with two outs, only to see Josh Whitesell ground out to end the inning. This points out another huge difference between the D-Backs and their foes to the west: L.A. doesn't have guys like Whitesell, Montero, and Young walking to the plate in big situations. L.A. has guys like James Loney, Russell Martin, Rafael Furcal, Matt Kemp, Orlando Hudson, and Casey Blake. You know, legitimate major-league hitters.
It wasn't all terrible. Jon Garland, who's been up and down this season, was pretty awesome Wednesday night. The D-Backs desperately needed a good pitching performance, and they got one from the veteran, who pitched six innings, gave up only four hits, and struck out six batters. He made exactly one mistake, a sixth-inning triple to Loney, who scored the Dodgers' only run. Garland was outstanding but had the misfortune of going up against Billingsley, one of the best pitchers in the National League this year.
So, the D-Backs are 11-14 under Hinch with a chance to do some damage this weekend against an equally mediocre San Diego team. Really, is it too much to ask for a four-game sweep this weekend? A sweep coulda happened in L.A., you know.