Mark Reynolds hit two home runs and drove in four runs on Thursday night, including a game-tying two-run shot in the eighth inning, but it wasn't enough for the Arizona Diamondbacks as the Texas Rangers took the series following a 9-8 D-Backs loss in 12 innings.
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Reynolds continues to prove why he's the ultimate all-or-nothing guy for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The strikeout king had gone 1-for-7 in the D-Backs' first two games against the Rangers and 2-for-24 in his past six games. But the 25-year-old slugger provided plenty of heroics (and made up for a costly error in the third inning) Thursday night against the Rangers, putting the D-Backs on top 2-0 in the first inning with a two-run homer and tying it up in the eighth with another two-run bomb, his 21st homer of the season. (Oh, and he juuuust missed hitting his third of the night in the bottom of the 10th. And he struck out with two runners on and no outs in the 12th.)
Some crummy defense and shaky pitching from Jon Garland put the Diamondbacks in a hole in the third inning. And Esmerling Vasquez, the D-Backs' eighth (!) pitcher of the night, was tagged hard in the top of the 12th, giving up back-to-back homers to Chris Davis and David Murphy. The result? A three-game home-series loss at the hands of the American League West-leading Texas Rangers. To add injury to insult, the D-Backs lost left fielder Eric Byrnes for up to two months after he was plunked in the left hand by Rangers starting pitcher Scott Feldman in the second inning.
In that tell-tale third inning, with the D-Backs leading 2-0, first baseman Reynolds booted an easy grounder off the bat of the ageless Omar Vizquel. The problem is that the bases were loaded at the time thanks to two singles and a walk. That made the score 2-1. Garland walked another Ranger to tie the score before third baseman Augie Ojeda dove to his left for a grounder off the bat of Andruw Jones. The score: 3-2.
Now, Reynolds isn't a first baseman by trade. But he's been making a lot of starts there because the D-Backs don't have a viable substitute for usual first baseman Chad Tracy, who's close to coming off the DL. At times, Reynolds, a natural third baseman, has looked okay at first, but he's also looked pretty brutal there. For the D-Backs, his prodigious output with the bat has more than made up for his defensive deficiencies. On this particular play -- not a hard-hit grounder by any means -- it should've been a piece of cake.
Over at the spot Reynolds should occupy, Ojeda, a veteran who's survived in the majors more or less because of his glove, really should've made the play on Jones' well-hit grounder -- even though it wasn't a gimme.
Garland, the up-and-down pitcher, got out of the rest of the inning unscathed and would make it through the fourth inning without giving up a run. In the fifth, Garland gave up a lead-off double to Ian Kinsler. Three batters later, he gave up the big blow of the game, a screaming homer off the bat of Andruw Jones, the former Atlanta Braves wunderkind who was left for dead by the Dodgers after a truly dismal year in L.A. in 2008. In Texas, Jones has rebounded somewhat. He's still a shell of his former self, but in 2009, he does have nine homers and 22 RBI to go along with a .246 batting average.
Garland continued a negative trend of below-average pitching. In losing his seventh game in his last nine starts, the 29-year-old righty went 6.1 innings and gave up four earned runs on eight hits and three walks. And even though he threw 103 pitches, he failed to strike out any Rangers. Garland raised his ERA to 5.03 on the season, which isn't low enough to win on a regular basis, given the D-Backs' difficulty scoring that many runs consistently.
On the topic of Byrnes, is it a blessing or a curse that the $11 million left fielder and his .216 batting average, five home runs, and 24 RBI will be on the shelf until, perhaps, late August? Unfortunately, the D-Backs won't be able to trade him to a contender now that he's on the disabled list. On the bright side, the injury really opens the door for Gerardo Parra to play every single day for the next two months. And it allows the non-contending D-Backs to bring up another player from the minors for some big-league experience, as the team looks to 2010.
Next up for A.J. Hinch's squad is a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the team duking it out with the Rangers for AL West supremacy. The Angels are led by veterans Torii Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero, Bobby Abreu, and Chone Figgins. L.A.'s 38-32 record isn't particularly impressive and they have underachieved this season. However, they also played the first seven weeks of the season without Guerrero and ace John Lackey. Those two are back on the roster and the Angels are 7-3 in their past 10 games.
Here's how the series' pitching match-ups look:
Tonight: Jered Weaver (7-3, 2.53 ERA) vs. Billy Buckner (2-4, 7.15), 6:40 p.m.
Saturday: John Lackey (2-3, 5.83) vs. Doug Davis (3-8, 3.53), 1:10 p.m.
Sunday: Matt Palmer (6-1, 4.70) vs. Max Scherzer (4-4, 3.58), 1:10 p.m.
TV: Tonight and Sunday are on Fox Sports Arizona; Saturday is on Fox. Radio: KTAR-AM 620. More info: www.dbacks.com