They say in sports that the first game back after a long road trip is the most difficult. That may or may not be true, but it certainly is how the Arizona Diamondbacks played on Monday night....for five innings. It started with Joe Saunders giving up a home run to his first batter faced and three runs in the first innings to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The ugliness continued in the bottom of the first when Justin Upton, Miguel Montero and Cody Ransom were all struck out by Lance Lynn, stranding Gerardo Parra on third where he sat after a lead-off triple. Lynn earned the win and is now 6-0 on the season.
Manager Kirk Gibson cited the inability to score that run as a major turning point in the game along with the bullpen giving up two runs in the seventh after the D-backs have cut the lead to one.
"We'll come back tomorrow regardless. They're a good team, we know that," Gibson said. "We have to play better, we haven't played as well as we're capable of recently. If we want to beat this team we're going to have to play much better."
The damage continued as Saunders gave up two more runs off back-to-back solo home runs in the third and then was lifted in the fourth after giving up another run and loading the bases. Brad Ziegler came in and walked in a run to end Saunders night with seven runs (six earned) off nine hits and one walk in just 3.1 innings of "work". His ERA on the season dropped to 2.50 with his worst performance of the summer.
The big inning featured a 452 foot BLAST by Cody Ranson that went into the Friday's Front Row porch high over left field. Montero had two singles in the inning which featured seven-consecutive hits before the St. Louis bullpen was able to strike out the side.
Ransom now has four home runs on the season which ties a career-high for him. He's been the hottest D-backs hitter of late. "He's on a roll. We need to get more people on a roll here," Gibby said.
Unfortunately, with the game at 7-6, Bryan Shaw came in and gave up the games second paid of back-to-back solo bombs to Cardinals sluggers Allen Craig and David Freese. The offense had no more juice left in the bats and the game ended with a 9-6 loss.
The good news, if you're looking for some, is that the D-backs rally forced the Cardinals to use five pitchers out of their pen and they were able to force Lynn from the game early. Maybe that will pay off as the series goes on.
Tuesday, it will be up to Ian Kennedy to try and get a home win. The D-backs are now 2-8 at home over their last ten games. The season is plenty early, but at some point these losses will be difficult to overcome for a team vying for another NL West Division Title.
-- Willie Bloomquist was lifted from the game to start the Cardinals fifth inning. He reportedly jammed his knee on a throw. The D-backs already have five guys from their 25-man team on the DL. They have infield depth but really can't afford to keep losing players to injury.
-- Justin Upton was pulled as part of a double switch in the sixth inning. There was nothing reportedly wrong. Gibson said it just made the most sense to replace him based on the way they thought the game might play out.
-- Gibson said that Lynn didn't have great command and that the D-backs let him off the hook.
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