Way before the St. Louis Cardinals' Brian Barden belted the game-winning blast in the eighth inning to gave the Arizona Diamondbacks their third consecutive loss, the home team arguably choked away the game way back in the third.
In that inning, Cardinals' starter Todd Wellemeyer retired the first hitter, then yielded an infield single to Doug Davis and a double to Felipe Lopez that moved the starting pitcher to third. With two runners in scoring position -- and the opportunity to take a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly -- Chris Young popped out to second base. Then Wellemeyer (1-1) coaxed Stephen Drew into a weak grounder, which the right-handed hurler fielded with no worries before throwing to first for the third out.
You could hear the collective groan amongst the Sedona-red-wearing contingent at Chase Field.
Reacting like an emotionally dejected football team that couldn't punch it in on four downs from the one-yard line, the Diamondbacks -- who have tallied a total of four runs in their past three games -- played offensively inept ball after tying the score at one apiece in the fourth on an RBI double by Chad Tracy. They also wasted yet another stellar effort by a starting pitcher -- this time, by Davis (0-2), who only walked one while giving up seven hits in eight innings. However, two of those knocks were huge.
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In the fourth, Albert Pujols lifted a solo shot to left, giving St. Louis a 1-0 advantage. And, of course, there was Barden's opposite-field round-tripper to give the Cards a 2-1 series-opening victory. The infielder's game-winner especially hurt because not only was it Barden's first home run as a big leaguer (and only his second hit of the season), but he was also brought up in the Arizona organization for six seasons before being waived in 2007. Ouch.
Ryan Franklin picked up his first save of the season for St. Louis, shutting out Arizona in the ninth.
The D-Backs (2-5) and Cardinals (6-2) exchange pleasantries once again tonight at 6:40 at Chase Field. Projected starters are Arizona's Max Scherzer (first start of 2009) and St. Louis' Chris Carpenter (1-0, 0.00). TV: FSN-AZ. Radio: KTAR-AM 620.
More info: www.dbacks.com.