Granted, the Arizona Diamondbacks are not a well-oiled machine. We're just not sure why. (Bad coaching? Poor team chemistry? Dodgy bullpen? Take your pick.) But there is one thing we know for certain: Thank goodness for Justin Upton.
In the third, the should-be All-Star selection nailed a solo shot over the right center field fence -- his 12th of the season -- off of San Francisco starter Jonathan Sanchez to make the score 1-0. Then, with reliever Brandon Medders on the hill in the seventh, Upton's seeing-eye single through the right side of the infield plated a huge insurance run for a 2-0 lead.
Backed by a gutsy performance by Max Scherzer (7 2/3 innings, 3 hits, no runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts, and 80 strikes thrown in 116 pitches), the right-hander kept the Giants from crossing home plate. Then, the moment everybody was not waiting for occurred: The bullpen entered the contest.
Chad Qualls came on in the ninth. He retired the first hitter, then first baseman Mark Reynolds dropped a sure out on a throw from third baseman Augie Ojeda. Following a hit by Pablo Sandoval and a Fred Lewis ground out, the tying runners were in scoring position. Qualls then unleashed a wild pitch, scoring Juan Uribe, the man who reached on Reynolds' error.
However, an announced attendance of 24,389 at Chase Field didn't have to watch the same ol' song and dance as Qualls struck out pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria to earn his 13th save of the season in preserving a 2-1 victory for Arizona.
But back to some bad news.
Facing a wild Sanchez (5 2/3 innings, 3 hits, 1 run earned, 7 walks, a wild pitch, and a hit batter), Arizona continually wasted run-scoring chances by stranding nine through the first six frames. Some of the lowlights included a botched sacrifice by Scherzer - he popped out foul on a first-pitch bunt attempt - and a meaningless pick-off of Reynolds at first base by Giants' catcher Eli Whiteside to end the fifth.
Also, Eric Byrnes furthered his case for AAA demotion. Following a leadoff walk to Ryan Roberts at the game's start, Byrnes swung at the first pitch, flying out weakly to center fielder Aaron Rowland. In the third, Byrnes struck out in a sad-looking AB. Though he did single in the seventh - moving to second on an E9 - and scored on Upton's clutch knock, the once shining-star looks like he would rather be doodling in a sketch book on the bench instead of taking healthy cuts at the plate.
However, Chris Young, another potential player on the minor league-bound list, played his butt off. In the second, he cranked a ground-rule double that went for naught (the D-Backs stranded three runners that frame). Then, in the top of the third, he made a tough play look easy in ranging back toward the center-field wall to rob Fred Lewis of a hit. He also made a circus catch of Nate Schierholtz' deep line drive in the fourth, stole third in the bottom half of that inning, and slapped a hard-hit double to left in the sixth.
The win improved the D-Backs' record to 26-35, while the Giants dropped to 31-28.
Up next: The Houston Astros come to town for a three-game set. Friday's first-pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. Probable starters are Arizona's Dan Haren (4-4, 2.33 ERA) and Houston's Mike Hampton (4-4, 4.65 ERA). TV: FSN-AZ. Radio: KTAR-620 AM. For further information, go to www.dbacks.com.
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