Pundits have advanced several reasons for the Diamondbacks’ current fall from grace.
Lack of starting pitching and lack of timely hitting represent the usual suspects.
Yet, one dimension of the D-backs’ game which was particularly strong a year ago is now suspect.
Fielding was one of the success core features from which manager Kirk Gibson could rely and one aspect in which the team excelled. Last season, the Diamondbacks committed 77 errors the entire season and were tied with the Cardinals going into the final day with 75 errors.
Defeating Washington 3-2 on Sept. 29, the Diamondbacks committed two errors and the Cardinals committed none during a 4-0 victory over Cubs.
That put Arizona just behind St. Louis as the top fielding team in the National League and gave hope that Gibson and Kevin Towers, the team’s general manager, did not have to worry about that dimension of the team.
Through the opening month of the season, that has all changed. The Diamondbacks have committed 27 errors to date and that is the most in the majors. Coming into play Tuesday, that’s one more than the Nationals and Dodgers but Arizona has played three more games.
“Right now, we’re not good,” Gibson said. “It’s not coming to us. When you’re playing good defense, the game comes to you naturally.”
Perhaps the most inconsistent fielder is Martin Prado. At third, Prado has missed a number of routine plays but none more costly than last Saturday night.
With the D-backs ahead of the Phillies 5-2 in the eighth inning. Ryan Howard led off the frame with a pop to third. Prado dropped the ball and the error was a principal factor in opening the gates of a four-run inning. Eventually, the Phillies came-from-behind and scored a 6-5 victory.
Quickly, Gibson has come to Prado’s defense and the defense of his intrepid band of warriors.
“It’s not just Prado,” Gibson said. “Guys are going trough a tough stretch right now. You can’t believe how hard Prado works and much he wants to win. He puts the team on his shoulders. He clearly pushes himself to do well.”
Overall, Gibson cited a number of factors why he thinks the Diamondbacks’ defense has slipped.
“When you’re not winning, you tend to put more pressure on yourself,” he said. “Also, when the game does not come naturally for you, that‘s a characteristic of a team struggling.”
ON THE FIELD TUESDAY NIGHT
In a game in which had two lead changes and a tie, the Colorado Rockies displayed a power game which will likely be their calling card to rival National League West teams.
Powered by home runs from Troy Tulowitski, a two-run shot in the sixth, and the game-winner from Drew Stubbs leading off the ninth, the Rox defeated the Diamondbacks, 5-4 before 19,702 in Chase Field Tuesday night.
The loss, the fourth straight at home, dropped Arizona to 2-15 at home, including two defeats to the Dodgers at the Sydney Cricket Grounds in Australia.
Instead of finding ways to win, the Diamondbacks’ set-backs appear to be spread around. Some nights, it’s lack of starting pitcher, and other nights lack of timely hitting.
On Tuesday night, it was the bullpen’s turn.
Closer Addison Reed entered in the ninth and quickly exited with his second loss in as many decisions.
“I got ahead of (Stubbs) at 0-2 and felt pretty good,” Reed said afterward. “Then, I hung a slider, just a terrible pitch and he made me pay. I left it over the middle and you can’t do that. Of course, I would like to have that one back.”
The offense jump-started starter Mike Bolsinger with a pair of runs early but lack of command to his curve ball led to Bolsinger’s exit in the sixth inning.
Offensively, Miguel Montero lead off the second inning with a double into the right field corner. He moved to third when Rox pitcher Tyler Chatwood threw the ball into center field on an attempted pick-up and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Aaron Hill.
Later in the inning, Chris Owings doubled in Eric Chavez, who walked.
The Rockies responded with a pair in each the fourth and sixth innings off of Bolsinger. With two outs in the eighth, A. J. Pollock slammed his third bomb of the season into the Diamondbacks bullpen to knot matters at 4-4.
Then, Stubbs, a ninth inning replacement in center field, hammered that pitch 2-2 Reed delivery over the right field fence and the Rockies improved to 16-12 and evened their road mark at 8-8.
“We did everything we could to win this game,” said D-backs’ manager Kirk Gibson. “The guys battled their tails off but thought we won there in the ninth.”
That’s when Eric Chavez drove Stubbs back to the center field warning track at the 407 sign to haul in his towering fly ball with two on and two out in the ninth.
MAKING A FIRST IMPRESSION
Coming into play Tuesday night, the Rockies were in second place in National League West and only one-half game the division-leading Giants.
One reason for their rise is the acquisition of first baseman Justin Morneau. Prior to Tuesday’s game, the 32 year-old native of New Westminster, British Columbia was hitting .351 and right behind teammate Troy Tulowitski’s .366.
The addition of Morneau was no surprise and an easy replacement for Rockies’ legend Todd Helton, who retired after last season.
“He’s been an outstanding fit for this team,” said Rox manager Walt Weiss prior to Tuesday night’s game with the Diamondbacks. “After he played over 150 games last season, we knew we had a lot of production left. He’s very intelligent, knows the game extremely well and has a very high baseball IQ.”
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Morneau was third in the NL in RBIs (21) behind league-leader Giancarlo Stanton (29) of the Marlins and Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers (23). As well, he’s hit safely in 23 of 24 starts and added a 2-for-4 night Tuesday, including a single and triple and a run scored. That also includes a current 13 game hitting streak.