The Arizona Diamondbacks were hoping to start the second half of the season on a positive note and keep pace with the San Francisco Giants. Instead, they continued a pattern of falling behind early and having to rally late. This time, though, they weren't able to muster enough of a rally and lost to Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4 at Chase Field on Friday night.
As it was the first game after almost a week-long layoff, manager Kirk Gibson described the play by both teams as "sloppy." "We made mistakes, they made mistakes," he explained. "But ultimately we weren't able to hold after Joe got out of the game, and that's what cost us the game."
Joe Saunders started out looking solid, but Juan Rivera, making his Dodger debut, got the Dodgers going in the second inning, mashing the first pitch he saw into the left-field seats for a homerun. He also singled and scored in the fourth. Saunders, a former teammate of Rivera in Anaheim, joked after the game that he had forgotten that Rivera "likes to ambush" pitchers early in the count.
Matt Kemp did the rest of the damage for LA, hitting a two-run shot off of Saunders in the sixth and a two-run single off of Aaron Heilman in the seventh, for what would be the decisive scoring in the game.
In the pregame press conference, Gibson talked about the need to get better middle relief help. Heilman's performance reiterates the concern that the team has, saying that they have "got to get to the eighth and ninth" for David Hernandez and J.J. Putz to close out games. However, after the the game he did emphasize that it is "not a panic situation."
The D-Backs rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Chris Young reached on an error and scored on a single by Miguel Montero. Xavier Nady later hit a three-run homer, his third on the season, to pull the team within two.
Kershaw went seven innings for the Dodgers, allowing the four runs, but none were earned. He improved his record to 10-4 on the season while Saunders fell to 6-8, giving up four runs in six innings.
Javy Guerra struck out pinch hitter Brandon Allen looking with two men on for the final out of the game to record the save. It was his fifth of the season. Both Gibson and Allen said that in that situation the pitch "was too close to take."
For more Arizona Diamondbacks coverage, be sure to visit AZ Snakepit.