Before Sunday afternoon, the Arizona Diamondbacks' weekend series against the Washington Nationals at Chase Field was looking like a disaster. Following a pair of tough losses on Friday and Saturday, it seemed the Snakes were about to get swept by the basement-dwelling Nats, giving new manager A.J. Hinch the ugliest possible start.
Thankfully, the D-Backs managed to somewhat salvage things with a hard-fought 10-8 victory yesterday, buoyed by the stellar hitting of Eric Byrnes and Chris Snyder.
It was a back-and-forth battle of the bats, which saw the lead change seven times during the nearly four-hour contest. Nine D-Backs produced 17 hits, including three each from Justin Upton and Ryan Roberts. Besides stretching his current hitting streak to 17 games, 21-year-old wunderkind Upton also led the team in scoring with three runs. Byrnesie also did well in the game, nailing a spectacular two-run homer in the fifth inning, as well as driving in three with an RBI double later during the four-run seventh frame. Even tough-luck pitcher Max Scherzer made a contribution, notching his first-ever RBI single. It was probably some comfort to the hurler, who went through five innings and allowed four runs off seven hits, but still wasn't able to score the elusive first MLB win in his career.
It was a complete turnaround performance-wise from the previous two games in the series, as Arizona was up to its usual tricks of offensive complacency and missed opportunities.
Both outings underscored the idea that even though recently fired manager Bob Melvin took the fall for the team's dismal start to the 2009 season, the players deserve a large amount of the blame
Even with a new skipper taking the helm, they continued to underwhelm. For instance, pitcher Yusmeiro Petit's performance during the team's 5-4 loss on Friday was much like his previous outings. The Venezuelan right-hander gave up four runs in as many innings, including moonshots by Jesus Flores and former D-Backs slugger Adam Dunn. The Snakes attempted to battle back with runs in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, to no avail, spoiling Hinch's debut. (The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that Petit strained his left shoulder and is now on the 15-day disabled list.)
As frustrating as Friday's loss was, it paled in comparison to the debacle of Saturday's 2-1 defeat. The D-Backs were given countless chances to score, but just couldn't manufacture a run to save their lives.
Starter Doug Davis put in six solid innings, but run support was non-existent. Going one for 13 with runners in scoring position, the Snakes stranded 16 runners on base over nine innings (including bases-loaded situations in multiple innings). And this was against the Nats' shoddy pitching staff (one of the worst in baseball), who walked nine different Arizona batters. A potential comeback run was snuffed out by a heartbreaking play at the plate during the seventh. Felipe Lopez slid feet-first into home, but a fielder's choice short-hop toss by Austin Kearns to catcher Jesus Flores resulted in a force-out.
It was enough to make fans want to pull their hair out, since Washington (10-19) is widely considered the worst team in the MLB and this should have been an easy series for the Diamondbacks and their neophyte manager.
And it's only gonna get tougher from here: Two of the D-Backs' next three opponents have winning records (Cincinnati and Florida), or are hovering around .500 (Atlanta). The Reds (17-14) are up first, visiting Chase Field for a three-game series starting tonight, and should prove to be formidable foes. Coming off a weekend series win against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Reds will be aided by slugger Joey Votto, who's batting .376 this season and is making a return to the lineup after getting sidelined by the flu.
Here's how the pitching situation stacks up for the series:
Tonight, 6:40 p.m.: Jon Garland (3-1, 4.03 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (4-2, 7.15).
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Tuesday, 6:40 p.m.: Dan Haren (3-3, 1.84) vs. former Diamondback Micah Owings (2-3, 5.08).
Wednesday, 6:40 p.m.: Bryan Augenstein (0-0, 0.00) vs. Johnny Cueto, (3-1, 1.59).
Former BoSox pitcher Arroyo is much better than his ERA indicates, and will be looking to bounce back from giving up nine runs versus Milwaukee this past week. Speaking of rebounds, Haren hopes to fair better than he did against San Diego last Wednesday, when he permitted a pair of RBIs and got a no-decision in the process. On Wednesday, Augenstein will be making his MLB debut as he fills in for the injured Petit.
Fox Sports Arizona will broadcast all three games on the tube, while KTAR-AM 620 has the call on the radio. Visit www.dbacks.com for tickets or more info.