You couldn't have blamed Arizona Diamondbacks fans for expecting the worst heading into Wednesday night's 8-5 loss to the surging San Diego Padres at Chase Field. The light-hitting Snakes were about to face arguably the National League's best power pitcher in Jake Peavy while countering with a young pitcher, Billy Buckner, making only his second big-league start. And for five innings, the D-Backs seemed to follow the script as Peavy mowed 'em down, giving up only two hits while the Padres offense opened up a 5-0 lead.
If you're looking for positives in the D-Backs' 27th loss, you'll find them in the way the young hitters kept battling Peavy (5-5, 3.67 ERA) until they finally figured him out in the sixth inning. Justin Upton, in particular, had a great at-bat in that inning, working the count full and then ripping a gapper into left-center field with two men on base. Upton hustled all the way, ended up with a triple, and scored on Stephen Drew's single.
After a pretty awful April, the 21-year-old Upton is looking like a legitimate All-Star and one of the best-hitting right fielders in the game. His average is up to .335, he now has 29 RBI, 32 runs scored, 9 homers, and 5 steals. If the vast majority of his teammates appear to be one-dimensional baseball-playing drones, blame it on Upton, who can do it all on the field and is fast becoming the single-biggest reason to tune in every night. If the D-Backs brass haven't already begun doing so, they should be building a roster around Upton for next year and the years to come. Oh, and memo to the fellas upstairs: Get this kid locked up in a long-term contract now.
The D-Backs started off the seventh inning by knocking Peavy around some more, eventually chasing him with a runner on third and no outs and the score 5-3. They cut it to 5-4 and were making a game out of it when the bullpen imploded in the eighth inning. Recent call-up Leo Rosales let this game get out of hand by giving up three runs on four walks, a hit, and an extremely ill-advised wild throw to first base on a bunt by Scott Hairston. That play, in which Rosales' toss zipped past a diving Mark Reynolds (playing first base by this point) and rolled into right field, pretty much set the tone for the inning. It was ugly.
So, Wednesday's loss was yet another series loss at home, the D-Backs' seventh out of nine, including all three under new manager A.J. Hinch. At this point, with the D-Backs 12.5 games out of first place and trailing the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres in the NL West, all you can do is look for the silver lining. In this series, it was the offense, which scored 7, 6, and 5 runs, which is a heck of a lot more than what they were scoring in the first six weeks of the season. A lot of that credit goes to, you guessed it, young Justin Upton.
Tonight, the Atlanta Braves come to town for a four-game series. The Braves are the very definition of an average team: 23-23, 5-5 in their last 10 games, 12-11 on the road. They've got one or two good young hitters, like catcher Brian McCann, and one warhorse, third baseman Chipper Jones, who can still hit like crazy (when he's not injured). The Braves are only three games out of first place in the tough NL East, thanks mostly to the pitching of youngster Jair Jurrjens and veterans Derek Lowe and former D-Back Javier Vazquez, who's off to a nice start. Here are the match-ups:
Tonight: Derek Lowe (6-2, 3.45) vs. Dan Haren (3-4, 2.57), 6:40 p.m.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.