Players and coaches like to say, it’s not how you start but how you finish.
After spotting the visiting Houston Astros a four run lead as early as the second inning Monday night, the Diamondbacks chipped away and proved that theory nearly correct.
In that vein, starter Josh Collmenter made a nice recovery after a shaky start, but the bats fell silent when needed.
In the end, the Diamondbacks came within one but could not gain the equalizer, and the visiting Houston Astros parlayed those early runs into a 4-3 victory over Arizona before 18,805 Monday night in Chase Field.
With the defeat, the Diamondbacks modest home winning streak ended at two.
Collmenter seems to have a penchant for starting slowly but finishing strong. That’s appears a season-long dilemma and a consequence from which is he is keenly aware.
“That’s happened a few times and I need to figure that out,” Collmenter said. “(Monday night), I was frustrated with the first few innings but then settled in and able to locate my fast ball and mix in breaking pitches.”
Despite early troubles, Collmenter hung in there and gave the Diamondbacks seven strong innings and a chance to stay in the game.
“I was happy to go seven and wanted to save the bullpen,” he added. “We had a few fresh arms out there but I was able to give the guys the rest they needed.”
As is his modus aperandi, Collmenter started slow and allowed four runs in the opening two innings.
Then, he settled down and allowed only two base runners, a fourth inning single to Jose Altuve and a fifth inning single to Matt Dominguez through his seven innings of work. For his part, Collmenter retired 16 of the final 18 hitters he faced.
That gave the Diamondbacks an opportunity to claw back.
With one in the fourth and two in the sixth, that was as far as Arizona would get.
Down by one, they managed only three base runners over the final, three critical innings. That would be a two out walk to pinch hitter Cody Ross in the seventh, a one out walk by Gerardo Parra in the eighth and a double by Ender Inciarte in the ninth on a fly to left field which was misjudged by Marwin Gonzalez.
With the loss, Collmenter had a personal four game winning streak snapped. Dating back to mid-April, that included four wins and three no decisions. His last defeat was on April 20, a 4-1 loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
“It looked like (Collmenter) was tight early on,” said manager Kirk Gibson. “But, he gave us seven good innings and did his job. He clearly kept us in the game.”
Following Washington manager Matt Williams and Cincinnati manager Brian Price as former Diamondbacks coaches to Chase Field earlier this season, Houston manager Bo Porter returned to the desert.
As a coach under former D-back manager A. J. Hinch, Porter said before Monday’s game that the Diamondbacks have undergone a total transformation since his days in Chase Field.
As part of the staff under Hinch, Porter was the D-backs' third base coach in 2010 and left to spend the two years as Davy Johnson’s third base coach in Washington. On Sept. 27, 2012, Porter was named as the Astros’ 17 manager in franchise history.
“When I was here, the team was totally different,” he said before Monday’s game with the D-backs in Chase Field. “Hinch was the manager and we had guys like Justin Upton, Chris Young, Dan Haren as the core.”
That, Porter indicated, was ancient history in baseball years.
“It’s not the same feel now,” he added. “Look, this is a great place to play and we had exciting times here.”
Porter was also complementary to reliever Chad Qualls, who leads the Astros in saves.
Qualls, who pitched for the Diamondbacks from 2008 to 2010, seems to have found a home in Houston. In his 11-year major league career, Qualls is now in his second tour of duty with Houston and previously pitched with Tampa Bay, San Diego, Philadelphia, the Yankees, Pittsburgh, Miami and the D-backs.
“He’s back healthy and that’s a big factor,” Porter said. “His sinker ball is better and his velocity is better. Plus, he’s pitching with confidence.”
With a one-run lead, Qualls came in the ninth Monday night and retired the side to earn his eighth save of the season.