To put it mildly, Juan Gutierrez has had an inconsistent season for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But despite all the blown saves, earned runs, and other bullpen buffoonery, the Venezuelan-born reliever managed to shake off demons and provide an ace performance on Saturday night as closer against the Florida Marlins.
Gutierrez's used only five pitches to obtain the three outs needed in the ninth to secure a much-needed 5-4 win over Florida at Chase Field, avoiding yet another late-inning comeback by a D-Backs opponent. With one on and no outs recorded, Marlins pinch-hitter Wes Helms popped a ball to center that was easily caught by Tony Abreu. Chris Coghlan then thankfully hit a bouncer into an impressive 2-5-1 double play which ended the game, allowing Gutierrez to point to the sky and celebrate.
If only the baseball gods had been as favorable to Arizona during the rest of the weekend's games. Saturday's win was bookended by close defeats, which (including Thursday's win) gave the Snakes a series split with Florida and sent them into this week's All-Star break at 34-55, 17.5 games outta first place in the NL West.
Dan Haren has been doing his damndest to try to lift the D-Backs out of the Grand Canyon-sized hole they've been in all season, but even he has his off moments. For example, he struck out six Florida batters on Friday night but got himself into plenty of jams early and often. Haren worked his way out a few times during the game, but allowed 10 separate hits and three runs by the Fish, including a pair of RBI singles by Dan Uggla during the third and seventh innings. (Cody Ross also generated a run during the third)
Down 2-0 at one point, Arizona attempted to fight their way back in the fourth when Gerrado Parra knocked in a run and Haren almost nailed a grand slam when the bases were loaded later in the inning. Florida's Mike Stanton grabbed the fly ball mere inches from the outfield fence to snuff out that particular play. The Diamondbacks added another run in the seventh, but came up short during the rest of the game to lose 3-2.
Sunday's defeat was equally disheartening, as Arizona wasted multiple opportunities to score and seemingly just sat around as the Marlins scored twice to win 2-0. One run came during the first inning when Chris Young kicked things off by drawing a walk from Florida pitcher Alex Sanabia before stealing second and making it to third base via a Kelly Johnson single. Sounds like a good start to an inning, no? Unfortunately, with runners on the corners and no outs, the rest of the Snakes' batting order gave up nothing but junk. Specifically, Justin Upton provided a pop out, Miguel Montero flew out, and Mark Reynolds struck out.
And so it goes for the Diamondbacks, who now have four days off to rest, recuperate, and ponder their sorry performance during the first half of the season. New manager Kirk Gibson has been promising some major changes to the lineup, and several D-Backs are optimistic about how the rest of the season will unfold. Technically, the team hasn't been eliminated from the post-season as of this writing, but let's face it: you might as well start referring to the team as "the Brokenbacks" since it would take a miracle for the boys in Sedona red to make the playoffs.
But you can never say never in the sports world, so let's hope the Snakes use their four-day vacation to re-tool, rebound, and get their shit together for the second half, which begins on Friday night with a three-game series against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. First pitch is at 7:05. TV: Fox Sports Arizona. Radio: KTAR 620-AM. More info: www.dbacks.com.
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